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About the Author 

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was born in France 
and ordained a Jesuit priest in 1911. Trained as a paleontologist, 
Teilhard did research at Musee National d'Histoire Naturelle 
in Paris and fieldwork in China, where in 1929 he codiscovered 
the celebrated "Peking Man" fossils. In his writings, he sought 
to reconcile his spiritual and scientific beliefs, producing a 
vision of man as evolving toward the divine. His unorthodox 
theological positions were at odds with Catholic doctrine and 
led to a strained relationship with Jesuit leaders, who forbade 
him from publishing his writings. The Phenomenon of Man 
became a bestseller when it was posthumously published in 
France in 1955. 

Sir Julian Huxley (1887-1975) was one of the twentieth 
century's leading evolutionary biologists. Among his numerous 
distinctions, Huxley was the first director general of the United 
Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization 
(UNESCO) and cofounder of the World Wildlife Fund. 

Pierre Teilhard De Chardin 









foreword: Seeing 31 


chapter I. The Stuff of the Universe 39 


A. Plurality 40 

b. Unity 41 

c. Energy 42 


A. The System 43 

B. The Totum 44 
c. The Quantum 45 


A. The Appearance 47 

b. The Numerical Laws 50 

chapter 11. The Within of Things 53 



A. First Observation 58 

B. Second Observation S9 

C. Third Observation 60 


A. The Problem of the Two Energies 63 

b. A Line of Solution 64 

CHAPTER ill. The Earth in its Early Stages 


a. The Crystallising World 

b. The Polymerising World 


chapter I. The Advent of Life 


a. Micro-organisms and Mega-molecules 

b. A Forgotten Era 

c. The Cellular Revolution 


A. The Milieu 

b. Smallness and Number 

c. The Origin of Number 

D. Inter-relationship and Shape 


chapter 11. The Expansion of Life 


A. Reproduction 

b. Multiplication 

c. Renovation 

d. Conjugation 

e. Association 

f. Controlled Additivity 

a corollaiy: the ways of life 


A. Aggregates of Growth 

b. The Flourishing of Maturity 

c. Effects of Distance 


A. The Main Lines 

b. The Dimensions 

c. The Evidence 
















chapter in. Demeter 141 

1. ariadnb's thread 142 

2. the rise of consciousness 147 

3. the approach of time 152 


chapter I. The Birth of Thought 163 


A. The Threshold of the Element: the Hominisa- 

tion of the Individual 164 

b. The Threshold of the Phylum: the Hominisa- 

tion of the Species 174 

C. The Threshold of the Terrestrial Planet: 

The Noosphere 180 


chapter 11. The Deployment of the Noosphere 191 



3. the Homo Sapiens complex 200 




chapter in. The Modern Earth 213 


A. The Perception of Space-time 216 

b. The Envelopment in Duration 219 

c. The Illumination 221 


A. Modem Disquiet 226 

B. The Requirements of the Future 229 
c The Dilemma and the Choice 232 


chapter I. The Collective Issue 2,37 


A. Forced Coalescence 239 

b. Mega-Synthesis 243 



A. Mankind 

b. Science 

c. Unanimity 

chapter ii. Beyond the Collective: the Hyper-Personal 



A. The Personal Universe 

B. The Personalising Universe 



CHAPTER III. The Ultimate Earth 



A. The Organisation of Research 

b. The Discovery of the Human Object 

c. The Conjunction of Science and Religion 


epilogue : The Christian Phenomenon 




postscript : The Essence of the Phenomenon of Man 




appendix: Some Remarks on the Place ami Part of Evil in a World 
in Evolution 













Perhaps a word may be permitted about some of the lesser pro- 
blems involved in the translation of this book. 

The author's style is all his own. In some instances he coins 
words to express his thought — ' hominisation', for instance, or 
noosphere ' — and in others he adapts words to his own ends, as 
when he talks of the ' within ' and the ' without ' of things. His 
meaning, however, should become apparent as his thought un- 
folds, and I have dispensed with cumbrous efforts at defining his 

As far as possible I have dispensed with italics for his neo- 
logisms—they are repeated too often to stand italicisation in a 
work already thickly sprinkled with italics for emphasis. I have 
also, in obedience to the conventions of typography in England, 
eliminated the author's initial capitals for all abstract nouns such 
as 'science ', ' life ', ' thought ', and also for ' world ', ' universe ', 
' man ' and other such key-words of his work. There were dis- 
advantages in this decision, but at least the printed page looks 
more normal to the English reader. 

A number of people nave contributed to the translation, some 
by substantial paper work, others by suggestions ; and the out- 
come is in a sense a joint effort. Outstanding among partici- 
pants are Mr. Geoffrey Sainsbury, Dr. A. Tindell Hopwood, 
Professor D. M. MacKinnon and Mr. Noel Lindsay. At times 
versions or suggestions have been conflicting and I have had to 
take it on myself to make an editorial decision. The translators' 
notes appear in square brackets. I should Like to thank my wife, 
without whom it would have been impossible to produce this 
version. Finally, I must take on myself responsibility for the 
inadequacies that still persist, 


Introduction by Sir Julian Huxley 

The Phenomenon of Man is a very remarkable work by a very 
remarkable human being. Pere Teilhard de Chardin was at the 
same time a Jesuit Father and a distinguished palaeontologist. In 
The Phenomenon of Man he has effected a threefold synthesis — of 
the material and physical world with the world of mind and 
spirit ; of the past with the future ; and of variety with unity, 
the many with the one. He achieves this by examining every fact 
and every subject of his investigation sub specie evolutionis, with 
reference to its development in time and to its evolutionary 
position. Conversely, he is able to envisage the whole of know- 
able reality not as a static mechanism but as a process. In conse- 
quence, he is driven to search for human significance in relation 
to the trends of that enduring and comprehensive process ; the 
measure of his stature is that he so largely succeeded in the search. 
I would like to introduce The Phenomenon of Man to English 
readers by attempting a summary of its general thesis, and of 
what appear to me to be its more important conclusions. 

I make no excuse for this personal approach. As I discovered 
when I first met Pere Teilhard in Paris in 1946, he and I were on 
the same quest, and had been pursuing parallel roads ever since 
we were young men in our twenties. Thus, to mention a few 
signposts which I independently found along my road, already 
in 1913 I had envisaged human evolution and biological evolution 
as two phases of a single process, but separated by a ' critical 
point ', after which the properties of the evolving material 
underwent radical change. This thesis I developed years later in 
my Uniqueness of Man, adding that man's evolution was unique 
in showing the dominance of convergence over divergence : in 



the same volume I published an essay on Scientific Humanism (a 
close approximation to Pere Teilhard's Neo-Humanism), in which 
I independently anticipated the tide of Pere Teilhard's great book 
by describing humanity as a phenomenon, to be studied and 
analysed by scientific methods. Soon after the first World War, 
in Essays of a Biologist, I made my first attempt at defining and 
evaluating evolutionary progress. 

In my Romanes Lecture on Evolutionary Ethics, I made an 
attempt (which I now see was inadequate, but was at least a 
step in the right direction) to relate the development of moral 
codes and religions to the general trends of evolution ; in 1942, 
in my Evolution, the Modem Synthesis, I essayed the first compre- 
hensive post-Mendelian analysis of biological evolution as a 
process : and just before meeting Pere Teilhard had written a 
pamphlet entitled Unesco : its Purpose and Philosophy, where I 
stressed that such a philosophy must be a global, scientific and 
evolutionary humanism. In this, I was searching to establish an 
ideological basis for man's further cultural evolution, and to 
define the position of the individual human personality in the 
process — a search in which I was later much aided by Pere 
Teilhard's writings, and by our conversations and correspondence. 

The Phenomenon of Man is certainly the most important of 
Pere Teilhard's published works. Of the rest, some, including 
the essays in La Vision du Passe 1 , reveal earlier developments or 
later elaborations of his general thought ; while others, like 
L' Apparition de f 'Homme, are rather more technical. 

Pere Teilhard starts from the position that mankind in its 
totality is a phenomenon to be described and analysed like 
any other phenomenon : it and all its manifestations, including 
human history and human values, are proper objects for scientific 

His second and perhaps most fundamental point is the 
absolute necessity of adopting an evolutionary point of view. 
Though for certain limited purposes it may be useful to think 
of phenomena as isolated statically in time, they are in point of 
fact never static : they are always processes or parts of processes. 



The different branches of science combine to demonstrate that 
the universe in its entirety must be regarded as one gigantic pro- 
cess, a process of becoming, of attaining new levels of existence 
and organisation, which can properly be called a genesis or an 
evolution. For this reason, he uses words like noogenesis, to mean 
the gradual evolution of mind or mental properties, and repeatedly 
stresses that we should no longer speak of a cosmology but of a 
cosmogenesis. Similarly, he likes to use a pregnant term like 
hominisation to denote the process by which the original proto- 
human stock became (and is still becoming) more truly human, 
the process by which potential man realised more and more of his 
possibilities. Indeed, he extends this evolutionary terminology by 
employing terms like ultra-hominisation to denote the deducible 
future stage of the process in which man will have so far tran- 
scended himself as to demand some new appellation. 

With this approach he is righdy and indeed inevitably driven 
to the conclusion that, since evolutionary phenomena (of course 
including the phenomenon known as man) are processes, they 
can never be evaluated or even adequately described solely or 
mainly in terms of their origins : they must be defined by their 
direction, their inherent possibilities (including of course also 
their limitations), and their deducible future trends. He quotes 
with approval Nietzsche's view that man is unfinished and must 
be surpassed or completed ; and proceeds to deduce the steps 
needed for his completion. 

Pere Teilhard was keenly aware of the importance of vivid 
and arresting terminology. Thus in 1925 he coined the term 
noosphere to denote the sphere of mind, as opposed to, or rather 
superposed on, the biosphere or sphere of life, and acting as a 
transforming agency promoting hominisation (or as I would 
put it, progressive psychosocial evolution). He may perhaps 
be criticised for not defining the term more explicidy. By 
noosphere did he intend simply the total pattern of thinking 
organisms (i.e. human beings) and their activity, including the 
patterns of their interrelations : or did he intend the special 
environment of man, the systems of organised thought and its 



products in which men move and have their being, as fish swim 
and reproduce in rivers and the sea ?* Perhaps it might have 
been better to restrict noosphere to the first-named sense, and to 
use something like noosystem for the second. But certainly 
noosphere is a valuable and thought-provoking word. 

He usually uses convergence to denote the tendency of mankind, 
during its evolution, to superpose centripetal on centrifugal 
trends, so as to prevent centrifugal differentiation from leading 
to fragmentation, and eventually to incorporate the results of 
differentiation in an organised and unified pattern. Human con- 
vergence was first manifested on the genetic or biological level : 
after Homo sapiens began to differentiate into distinct races (or 
subspecies, in more scientific terminology) migration and inter- 
marriage prevented, the pioneers from going further, and led to 
increasing interbreeding between all human variants. As a result, 
man is the only successful type which has remained as a single 
interbreeding group or species, and has not radiated out into a 
number of biologically separated assemblages (like the birds, with 
about 8,500 species, or the insects with over half a million). 

Cultural differentiation set in later, producing a number of 
psychosocial units with different cultures. However, these ' inter- 
thinking groups ', as one writer has called them, are never so 
sharply separated as are biological species ; and with time, the 
process known to anthropologists as cultural diffusion, facilitated 
by migration and improved communications, led to an accelerat- 
ing counter-process of cultural convergence, and so towards the 
union of the whole human species into a single mterthinking 
group based on a single self-developing framework of thought 
(or noosystem). 

In parenthesis, Pere Teilhard showed himself aware of the 

1 In Le Phtnombie Hunuun (p. 201) be refers to the noosphere as a new layer 
or membrane on the earth's surface, a ' thinking layer ' superposed on the living 
layer of the biosphere and the lifeless layer of inorganic material, the lithasphere. 
But in his earner formulation of 1925, in La Vision in Passi (p. 92), he calls it 
' une sphere de la reflexion, de I 'invention conscicnte, de l'union sentie des 



danger that this tendency might destroy the valuable results o 
cultural diversification, and lead to drab uniformity instead o 1 
to a rich and potent pattern of variety-in-unity. Howevei. 
perhaps because he was (rightly) so deeply concerned with 
establishing a global unification of human awareness as a necessary 
prerequisite for any real future progress of mankind, and perhap: 
also because he was by nature and inclination more interestea 
in rational and scientific thought than in the arts, he did not 
discuss the evolutionary value of cultural variety in any detail, 
but contented himself by maintaining that East and West are 
culturally complementary, and that both are needed for the 
further synthesis and unification of world thought. 

Before passing to the full implications of human convergence, 
I must deal with Pere Teilhard's valuable but rather difficult 
concept of complexijication. This concept includes, as I under- 
stand it, the genesis of increasingly elaborate organisation during 
cosmogenesis, as manifested in the passage from subatomic units 
to atoms, from atoms to inorganic and later to organic mole- 
cules, thence to the first subcellular living units or self-replicating 
assemblages of molecules, and then to cells, to multicellular 
individuals, to cephalised metazoa with brains, to primitive man, 
and now to civilised societies. 

But it involves something more. He speaks of complexi- 
fication as an all-pervading tendency, involving the universe in 
all its parts in an enroulement organique sur soi-meme, or by an 
alternative metaphor, as a reploiement sur soi-meme. He thus 
envisages the world-stuff as being ' rolled up ' or folded in ' 
upon itself, both locally and in its entirety, and adds that the pro- 
cess is accompanied by an increase of energetic ' tension ' in 
the resultant ' corpuscular ' organisations, or individualised con- 
structions of increased organisational complexity. For want of a 
better English phrase, 1 shall use convergent integration to define 
the operation of this process of self-complexification. 

Pere Teilhard also maintains that complexification by con- 
vergent integration leads to the intensification of mental subjective 
activity — in other words to the evolution of progressively more 



conscious mind. Thus he states that full consciousness (as seen 
in man) is to be defined as ' the specific effect of organised 
complexity '. But, he continues, comparative study makes it 
clear that higher animals have minds of a sort, and evolutionary 
fact and logic demand that minds should have evolved gradually 
as well as bodies and that accordingly mind-like (or ' mentoid ', 
to employ a barbarous word that I am driven to coin because 
of its usefulness) properties must be present throughout the 
universe. Thus, in any case, we must infer the presence of 
potential mind in all material systems, by backward extra- 
polation from the human phase to the biological, and from the 
biological to the inorganic. And according to Pere Teilhard, 
we must envisage the intensification of mind, the raising of 
mental potential, as being the necessary consequence of com- 
plexification, operating by the convergent integration of increas- 
ingly complex units of organisation. 

The sweep of his thought goes even further. He seeks to link 
the evolution of mind with the concept of energy. If I under- 
stand him aright, he envisages two forms of energy, or perhaps 
two modes in which it is manifested — energy in the physicists' 
sense, measurable or calculable by physical methods, and ' psychic 
energy ' which increases with the complexity of organised 
units. 1 This view admittedly involves speculation of great intel- 
lectual boldness, but the speculation is extrapolated from a 
massive array of fact, and is disciplined by logic. It is, if you 
like, visionary : but it is the product of a comprehensive and 
coherent vision. 

It might have been better to say that complexity of a sort 
is a necessary prerequisite for mental evolution rather than its 
cause. Some biologists, indeed, would claim that mind is 
generated solely by the complexification of certain types of 
organisation, namely brains. However, such logic appears to 
me narrow. The brain alone is not responsible for mind, even 

1 See, e.g., C. Cuenot, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Paris, 1958, p. 430. We 
certainly need some new terms in this field: perhaps neurergy and psychergy 
would serve. 



though it is a necessary organ for its manifestation. Indeed an 
isolated brain is a piece of biological nonsense, as meaningless as 
an isolated human individual. I would prefer to say that mind 
is generated by or in complex organisations of living matter, 
capable of receiving information of many qualities or modalities 
about events both in the outer world and in itself, of synthesising 
and processing that information in various organised forms, and 
of utilising it to direct present and future action — in other words, 
by higher animals with their sense-organs, nerves, brains, and 
muscles. Perhaps, indeed, organisations of such complexity can 
only arise in evolution when their construction enables them to 
incorporate and interiorise varied external information : cer- 
tainly no non-living, non-sentient organisation has reached 
anything like this degree of elaboration. 

In human or psychosocial evolution, convergence has cer- 
tainly led to increased complexity. In Pere Teilhard's view, the 
increase of human numbers combined with the improvement 
of human communications has fused all the parts of the noosphere 
together, has increased the tension within it, and has caused it 
to become ' infolded ' upon itself, and therefore more highly 
organised. In the process of convergence and coalescence, what 
we may metaphorically describe as the psychosocial temperature 
rises. Mankind as a whole will accordingly achieve more intense, 
more complex, and more integrated mental activity, which can 
guide the human species up the path of progress to higher levels 
of hominisation. 

Pere Teilhard was a strong visualiser. He saw with his 
mind's eye that ' the banal fact of the earth's roundness ' — the 
sphericity of man's environment — was bound to cause this 
intensification of psychosocial activity. In an unlimited environ- 
ment, man's thought and his resultant psychosocial activity would 
simply diffuse outwards : it would extend over a greater area, 
but would remain thinly spread. But when it is confined to 
spreading out over the surface of a sphere, idea will encounter 
idea, and the result will be an organised web of thought, a noetic 
system operating under high tension, a piece of evolutionary 



machinery capable of generating high psychosocial energy. 
When I read his discussion of the subject, I visualised this selective 
web of living thought as the bounding structure of evolving 
man, marking him off from the rest of the universe and yet 
facilitating exchange with it : playing the same sort of role in 
delimiting the human unit of evolution and yet encouraging the 
complexification of its contents, as does the cell-membrane for 
the animal cell. 

Years later, when at the University of California in 1952, 
this same vivid imagination led Pere Teilhard to draw a parallel 
between the cyclotron generating immense intensities of physical 
energy in the inwardly accelerating spiral orbits of its fields of 
force, and the entire noosphere with its fields of thought curved 
round upon themselves to generate new levels of ' psychical 
energy '- 1 How his imagination would have kindled at the sight 
of the circular torus of Zeta, within whose bounding curves 
are generated the highest physical energies ever produced by 
man ! 

Pere Teilhard, extrapolating from the past into the future, 
envisaged the process of human convergence as tending to a 
final state, 1 which he called ' point Omega ', as opposed to the 
Alpha of elementary material particles and their energies. If I 
understand him aright, he considers that two factors are co-operat- 
ing to promote this further complexification of die noosphere. 
One is the increase of knowledge about the universe at large, 
from the galaxies and stars to human societies and individuals. 
The other is the increase of psychosocial pressure on the surface 
of our planet. The result of the one is that the noosphere incor- 
porates ever more facts of the cosmos, including the facts of its 
general direction and its trends in time, so as to become more 

1 En regardant un cyclotron : in Rechcrches et dibats, Paris, April 1953, p.123. 

2 Presumably, in designating this state as Omega, he believed that it was a 
truly final condition. It might have been better to think of it merely as a novel 
state or mode of organization, beyond which the human imagination cannot 
at present pierce, though perhaps the strange facts of extra-sensory perception 
unearthed by the infant science of parapsychology may give us a clue to a 
possible more ultimate state. 



truly a microcosm, which (like all incorporated knowledge) is 
both a mirror and a directive agency. The result of the other 
is the increased unification and the increased intensity of the 
system of human thought. The combined result, according 
to Pere Teilhard, will be the attainment of point Omega, 
where the noosphere will be intensely unified and will have 
achieved a ' hyperpersonal ' organisation. 

Here his thought is not fully clear to me. Sometimes he seems 
to equate this future hyperpersonal psychosocial organisation 
with an emergent Divinity : at one place, for instance, he speaks 
of the trend as a Christogenesis ; and elsewhere he appears not to 
be guarding himself sufBciendy against the dangers of personi- 
fying the non-personal elements of reality. Sometimes, too, he 
seems to envisage as desirable the merging of individual human 
variety in this new unity. Though many scientists may, as I do, 
find it impossible to follow him all the way in his gallant attempt 
to reconcile the supernatural elements in Christianity with the 
facts and implications of evolution, this in no way detracts from 
the positive value of his naturalistic general approach. 

In any case the concept of a hyperpersonal mode of organisa- 
tion sprang from Pere Teilhard's conviction of the supreme 
importance of personality. A developed human being, as he 
rightly pointed out, is not merely a more highly individualised 
individual. He has crossed the threshold of self-consciousness to 
a new mode of thought, and as a result has achieved some 
degree of conscious integration — integration of the self with the 
outer world of men and nature, integration of the separate 
elements of the self with each other. He is a person, an organism 
which has transcended individuality in personality. This attain- 
ment of personality was an essential element in man's past and 
present evolutionary success : accordingly its fuller achievement 
must be an essential aim for his evolutionary future. 

This belief in the pre-eminent importance of the personality 
in the scheme of things was for him a matter of faith, bu of 
faith supported by rational inquiry and scientific knowledge It 
prevented him frorh diluting his concept of the divine principle 



inherent in reality, in a vague and meaningless pantheism, just 
as his apprehension of the entire process of reality as a system 
of interrelations, and of mankind as actively participating in 
that process, saved him from losing his way in the deserts of 
individualism and existentialism. 

He realised that the appearance of human personality was 
the culmination of two major evolutionary trends — the trend 
towards more extreme individuation, and that towards more 
extensive interrelation and co-operation : persons are individuals 
who transcend their merely organic individuality in conscious 

His understanding of the method by which organisms become 
first individualised and then personalised gave him a number of 
valuable insights. Basically, the process depends on cephalisation 
— the differentiation of a head as the dominant guiding region 
of the body, forwardly directed, and containing the main sense- 
organs providing information about the outer world and also 
the main organ of co-ordination or brain. 

With his genius for fruitful analogy, he points out that the 
process of evolution on earth is itself now in the process of 
becoming cephalised. Before the appearance of man, life con- 
sisted of a vast array of separate branches, linked only by an 
unorganised pattern of ecological interaction. The incipient 
development of mankind into a single psychosocial unit, with 
a single noosystem or common pool of thought, is providing 
the evolutionary process with the rudiments of a head. It remains 
for our descendants to organise this global noosystem more 
adequately, so as to enable mankind to understand the process 
of evolution on earth more fully and to direct it more adequately. 

I had independently expressed something of the same sort, 
by saying that in modern scientific man, evolution was at last 
becoming conscious of itself — a phrase which I found delighted 
Pere Teilhard. His formulation, however, is more profound 
and more seminal : it implies that we should consider inter- 
thinking humanity as a new type of organism, whose destiny 
it is to realise new possibilities for evolving life on this planet. 



Accordingly, we should endeavour to equip it with the mech- 
anisms necessary for the proper fulfilment of its task — the 
psychosocial equivalents of sense-organs, effector organs, and a 
co-ordinating central nervous system with dominant brain ; and 
our aim should be the gradual personalisation of the human 
unit of evolution — its conversion, on the new level of co-operative 
interthinking, into the equivalent of a person. 

Once he had grasped and faced the fact of man as an evolu- 
tionary phenomenon, the way was open towards a new and 
comprehensive system of thought. It remained to draw the 
fullest conclusions from this central concept of man as the 
spearhead of evolution on earth, and to follow out the implica- 
tions of this approach in as many fields as possible. The biologist 
may perhaps consider that in The Phenomenon of Man he paid 
insufficient attention to genetics and the possibilities and limita- 
tions of natural selection, 1 the theologian that his treatment of 
the problems of sin and suffering was inadequate or at least 
unorthodox, the social scientist that he failed to take sufficient 
account of the facts of political and social history. But he saw 
that what was needed at the moment was a broad sweep and a 
comprehensive treatment. This was what he essayed in The 
Phenomenon of Man. In my view he achieved a remarkable success, 
and opened up vast territories of thought to further exploration 
and detailed mapping. 

The facts of Pere Teilhard's life help to illuminate the develop- 
ment of his thought. His father was a small landowner in 
Auvergne, a gentleman farmer who was also an archivist, with 
a taste for natural history. Pierre was bom in 1881, the fourth 
in a family of eleven. At the age of ten he went as a boarder 
to a Jesuit College where, besides doing well in all prescribed 
subjects of study, he became devoted to field geology and 
mineralogy. When eighteen years old, he decided to become a 
Jesuit, and entered their order. At the age of twenty-four, after 

1 Though in his Institute for Human Studies he envisaged a section of 



an interlude in Jersey mainly studying philosophy, he was sent 
to teach physics and chemistry in a Jesuit College at Cairo. In 
the course of his three years in Egypt, and a further four studying 
theology in Sussex, he acquired real competence in geology and 
palaeontology ; and before being ordained priest in 1912, a reading 
of Bergson's Evolution Cre'atrice had helped to inspire in him a 
profound interest in the general facts and theories of evolution. 
Returning to Paris, he pursued his geological studies and started 
working under Marcellin Boule, the leading prehistorian and 
archaeologist of France, in his Institute of Human Palaeontology 
at the Museum of Natural History. It was here that he met his 
lifelong friend and colleague in the study of prehistory, the Abbe - 
Breuil, and that his interests were first directed to the subject on 
which his life's work was centred — the evolution of man. In 
19 1 3 he visited the site where the famous (and now notorious) 
Piltdown skull had recently been unearthed, in company with its 
discoverer Dr. Dawson and the leading English palaeontologist 
Sir Arthur Smith Woodward. This was his first introduction 
to the excitements of palaeontological discovery and scientific 

During the first World War he served as a stretcher-bearer, 
receiving the Military Medal and the Legion of Honour, and 
learnt a great deal about his fellow men and about his own 
nature. The war strengthened his sense of religious vocation, 
and in 1918 he made a triple vow of poverty, chastity and 

By 1919 the major goals of his life were clearly indicated. 
Professionally, he had decided to embark on a geological career, 
with special emphasis on palaeontology. As a thinker, he had 
reached a point where the entire phenomenal universe, including 
man, was revealed as a process of evolution, and he found himself 
impelled to build up a generalised theory or philosophy of 
evolutionary process which would take account of human history 
and human personality as well as of biology, and from which 
one could draw conclusions as to the future evolution of man 
on earth. And as a dedicated Christian priest, he felt it imperative 



to try to reconcile Christian theology with this evolutionary 
philosophy, to relate the facts of religious experience to those of 
natural science. 

Returning to the Sorbonne, he took his Doctorate in 1922. 
He had already become Professor of Geology at the Catholic 
Institute of Paris, where his lectures attracted great attention 
among the students (three of whom are now teaching in the 
University of Paris). In 1923, however, he went to China for 
a year on behalf of the Museum, on a palaeontological mission 
directed by another Jesuit, Pere Licent. His Lettres de Voyage 
reveal the impression made on him by the voyage through the 
tropics, and by his first experience of geological research in the 
desert remoteness of Mongolia and north-western China. This 
expedition inspired La Messe sur k Monde, a remarkable and truly 
poetical essay which was at one and the same time mystical and 
realistic, religious and philosophical. 

A shock awaited him after liis return to France. Some of the 
ideas which he had expressed in his lectures about original sin 
and its relation to evolution, were regarded as unorthodox by 
his religious superiors, and he was forbidden to continue teaching. 
In 1926 he returned to work with Pere Licent in China, where 
he was destined to stay, with brief returns to France and excur- 
sions to the United States, to Abyssinia, India, Burma and Java, 
for twenty years. Here, as scientific adviser to the Geological 
Survey of China, centred first at Tientsin and later at Peking, 
he met and worked with outstanding palaeontologists of many 
nations, and took part in a number of expeditions, including the 
Citroen Croisiere Jaune under Haardt, and Davidson Black's 
expedition which unearthed the skull of Peking man. 

In 1938 he was appointed Director of the Laboratory of 
Advanced Studies in Geology and Palaeontology in Paris, but 
the outbreak of war prevented his return to France. His enforced 
isolation in China during the six war years, painful and depressing 
though it often was, undoubtedly helped his inner spiritual 
development (as the isolation of imprisonment helped to mature 
the thought and character of Nehru and many other Indians). 



It encouraged ample reading and reflection, and stimulated the 
full elaboration of his thought. 

It was a nice stroke of irony that the action of Pere Teilhard's 
religious superiors in barring him from teaching in France 
because of his ideas on human evolution, should have led him to 
China and brought him into intimate association with one of 
the most important discoveries in that field, and driven him to 
enlarge and consolidate his ' dangerous thoughts '. 

During the whole of this period he was writing essays and 
books on various aspects and implications of evolution, culminat- 
ing in 1938 in the manuscript of Le Phenomene Humain. But 
he never succeeded in obtaining permission to publish any of 
his controversial or major works. This caused him much distress, 
for he was conscious of a prophetic mission : but he faithfully 
observed his vow of obedience. Professionally too he was 
extremely active throughout this period. He contributed a great 
deal to our knowledge of palaeolithic cultures in China and 
neighbouring areas, and to the general understanding of the 
geology of the Far East. This preoccupation with large-scale 
geology led him to take an interest in the geological development 
of the world's continents : each continent, he considered, had 
made its own special contribution to biological evolution. He 
also did important palaeontological work on the evolution of 
various mammalian groups. 

The wide range of his vision made him impatient of over- 
specialisation, and of the timidity which refuses to pass from 
detailed study to broad syndiesis. With his conception of man- 
kind as at the same time an unfinished product of past evolution 
and an agency of distinctive evolution to come, he was par- 
ticularly impatient of what he felt as the narrowness of those 
anthropologists who limited themselves to a study of physical 
structure and the details of primitive social life. He wanted to 
deal with the entire human phenomenon, as a transcendence of 
biological by psychosocial evolution. And he had considerable 
success in redirecting along these lines die institutions with which 
he was connected. 



Back in France in 1946, Pere Teilhard plunged eagerly into 
European intellectual life, but in 1947 he had a serious heart 
attack, and was compelled to spend several months convalescing 
in the country. On his return to Paris, he was enjoined by his 
superiors not to write any more on philosophical subjects : and 
in 1948 he was forbidden to put forward his candidature for a 
Professorship in the College de France in succession to the Abbe" 
Breuil, though it was known that this, the highest academic 
position to which he could aspire, was open to him. But perhaps 
the heaviest blow awaited him in 1950, when his application for 
permission to publish Le Groupe Zoologique Humain (a recasting 
of Le Phinomene Humain) was refused in Rome. By way of 
compensation he was awarded the signal honour of being elected 
Membre de 1'Institut, as well as having previously become a 
Corresponding Member of the Acadimie des Sciences, an officer 
of the Legion d'Homwur, and a director of research in the Centre 
National de la Recherche Scientifique. 

Already in 1948 he had been invited to visit the U.S.A., 
where he made his fust contacts with the Wenner-Gren Founda- 
tion (or Viking Foundation as it was then called), in whose 
friendly shelter he spent the last four years of his life. The 
Wermer-Gren Foundation also sponsored his two visits to South 
Africa, where he was able to study at first hand the remarkable 
discoveries of Broom and Dart concerning Australopithecus, 
that near-ancestor of man, and to lay down a plan for the future 
co-ordination of palaeontological and archaeological work in this 
area, so important as a centre of hominid evolution. 

His position in France became increasingly difficult, and in 
195 1 he moved his headquarters to New York. Here, at the 
Wenner-Gren Foundation, he played an important role in 
framing anthropological policy, and made valuable contribu- 
tions to the international symposia which it organised. And 
here, in 1954, I had the privilege of working with him in one 
of the remarkable discussion groups set up as part of the Columbia 
Bicentennial celebrations. Just before this, he had returned to 
France for a brief but stimulating month of discussion. 



Throughout this period, he had been actively developing his 
ideas, and had written his spiritual autobiography, Le Caeur de 
la Mature, the semi-technical Le Croupe Zoologique Humaitt, 
and various technical and general articles later included in the 
collections entitled La Vision du Passe and L' Apparition de 

He was prevailed on to leave his manuscripts to a friend. 
They therefore could be published after his death, since per- 
mission to publish is only required for the work of a living 
writer. The prospect of eventual publication must have been 
a great solace to him, for he certainly regarded his general and 
philosophical writings as the keystone of his life's work, and 
felt it his supreme duty to proclaim the fruits of his labour. 

It was my privilege to have been a friend and correspondent 
of Pere Teilhard for nearly ten years ; and it is my privilege 
now to introduce this, his most notable work, to English- 
speaking readers. 

His influence on the world's thinking is bound to be im- 
portant. Through his combination of wide scientific knowledge 
with deep religious feeling and a rigorous sense of values, he has 
forced theologians to view their ideas in the new perspective of 
evolution, and scientists to see the spiritual implications of their 
knowledge. He has both clarified and unified our vision of 
reality. In the light of that new comprehension, it is no longer 
possible to maintain that science and religion must operate in 
thought-tight compartments or concern separate sectors of life ; 
they are both relevant to the whole of human existence. The 
religiously-minded can no longer turn their backs upon the 
natural world, or seek escape from its imperfections in a super- 
natural world ; nor can the materialistically-minded deny 
importance to spiritual experience and religious feeling. 

Like him, we must face the phenomena. If we face them 
resolutely, and avail ourselves of the help which his intellectual 
and spiritual travail has provided, wc shall find a more assured 
basis for our thought and a more certain direction for our evolu- 



tionary advance. But, like him, we must not take refuge in 
abstractions of generalities. He always took account of the 
specific realities of man's present situation, though set against 
the more general realities of long-term evolution ; and he 
always endeavoured to think concretely, in terms of actual 
patterns of organisation — their development, their mode of 
operation and their effects. 

As a result, he has helped us to define more adequately both 
our own nature, the general evolutionary process, and our place 
and role in it. Thus clarified, the evolution of life becomes a 
comprehensible phenomenon. It is an anti-cntropic process, 
running counter to the second law of thermodynamics with its 
degradation of energy and its tendency to uniformity. With the 
aid of the sun's energy, biological evolution marches uphill, pro- 
ducing increased variety and higher degrees of organisation. 

It also produces more varied, more intense and more highly 
organised mental activity or awareness. During evolution, 
awareness (or if you prefer, the mental properties of living matter) 
becomes increasingly important to organisms, until in mankind 
it becomes the most important characteristic of life, and gives the 
human type its dominant position. 

After this critical point has been passed, evolution takes on 
a new character : it becomes primarily a psychosocial process, 
based on the cumulative transmission of experience and its 
results, and working through an organised system of awareness, 
a combined operation of knowing, feeling and willing. In man, 
at least during the historical and proto-historical periods, evolution 
has been characterised more by cultural than by genetic or 
biological change. 

On this new psychosocial level, the evolutionary process 
leads to new types and higher degrees of organisation. On the 
one hand there are new patterns of co-operation among indi- 
viduals — co-operation for practical control, for enjoyment, for 
education, and notably in the last few centuries, for obtaining 
new knowledge ; and on the other there arc new patterns of 
thought, new organisations of awareness and its products. 



As a result, new and often wholly unexpected possibilities 
have been realised, the variety and degree of human fulfilment 
has been increased. Pere Teilhard enables us to see which possi- 
bilities are in the long run desirable. What is more, he has helped 
to define the conditions of advance, the conditions which will 
permit an increase of fulfilment and prevent an increase of 
frustration. The conditions of advance are these : global unity 
of mankind's noetic organisation or system of awareness, but a 
high degree of variety within that unity ; love, with goodwill 
and full co-operation ; personal integration and internal har- 
mony ; and increasing knowledge. 

Knowledge is basic. It is knowledge which enables us to 
understand the world and ourselves, and to exercise some control 
or guidance. It sets us in a fruitful and significant relation with 
the enduring processes of the universe. And, by revealing the 
possibilities of fulfilment that are still open, it provides an over- 
riding incentive. 

We, mankind, contain the possibilities of the earth's immense 
future, and can realise more and more of them on condition 
that we increase our knowledge and our love. That, it seems to 
me, is the distillation of The Phenomenon of Man. 

London, December 1Q5$ 



If this book is to be properly understood, it must be read not as a 
work on metaphysics, still less as a sort of theological essay, but 
purely and simply as a scientific treatise. The title itself indicates 
that. This book deals with man solely as a phenomenon ; but it 
also deals with the whole phenomenon of man. 

In the first place, it deals with man solely as a phenomenon. 
The pages which follow do not attempt to give an explanation of 
the world, but only an introduction to such an explanation. Put 
quite simply, what I have tried to do is this ; I have chosen man 
as the centre, and around him I have tried to establish a coherent 
order between antecedents and consequents. I have not tried to 
discover a system of ontological and causal relations between the 
elements of the universe, but only an experimental law of re- 
currence which would express their successive appearance in 
time. Beyond these first purely scientific reflections, there is 
obviously ample room for farther-reaching speculations of 
the philosopher and the theologian. Of set purpose, I have at all 
times carefully avoided venturing into that field of the essence of 
being. At most I am confident that, on the plane of experience, 
1 have identified with some accuracy the combined movement 
towards unity, and have marked the places where philosophical and 
religious thinkers, in pursuing the matter further, would be 
entitled, for reasons of a higher order, to look for breaches 
of continuity. 1 

But this book also deals with the whole phenomenon of man. 

Without contradicting what I have just said (however much it 

may appear to do so) it is this aspect which might possibly make 

my suggestions look like a philosophy. During the last fifty years 

1 Sec, for example, the footnotes on pp. 160, i8<5, 298. 



or so, the investigations of science have proved beyond alJ doubt 
that there is no fact which exists in pure isolation, but that every 
experience, however objective it may seem, inevitably becomes 
enveloped in a complex of assumptions as soon as the scientist 
attempts to express it in a formula. But while this aura of sub- 
jective interpretation may remain imperceptible where the field 
of observation is limited, it is bound to become practically 
dominant as soon as the field of vision extends to the whole. Like 
the meridians as they approach the poles, science, philosophy and 
religion are bound to converge as they draw nearer to the whole. 
I say ' converge ' advisedly, but without merging, and without 
ceasing, to the very end, to assail the real from different angles 
and on different planes. Take any book about the universe written 
by one of the great modern scientists, such as Poincare, Einstein or 
Jeans, and you will see that it is impossible to attempt a general 
scientific interpretation of the universe without giving the impres- 
sion of trying to explain it through and through. But look a little 
more closely and you will see that this ' hyperphysics ' is still not 
a metaphysic. 

In the course of every effort of this kind to give a scientific 
description of the whole, it is natural that certain basic assumptions, 
on which the whole further structure rests, should make their 
influence felt to the fullest possible extent. In the specific instance 
of the present Essay, I think it important to point out that two 
basic assumptions go hand in hand to support and govern every 
development of the theme. The first is the primacy accorded to the 
psychic and to thought in the stuff of the universe, and the second 
is the ' biological ' value attributed to the social fact around us. 

The pre-eminent significance of man in nature, and the 
organic nature of mankind ; these are two assumptions that one 
may start by trying to reject, but without accepting them, I do 
not see how it is possible to give a full and coherent account of 
the phenomenon of man. 

Paris, March 1947 




This work may be summed up as an attempt to see and to make 
others see what happens to man, and what conclusions are forced 
upon us, when he is placed fairly and squarely within the frame- 
work of phenomenon and appearance. 

Why should we want to see, and why in particular should we 
single out man as our object ? 

Seeing. We might say that the whole of life lies in that verb— 
if not ultimately, at least essentially. Fuller being is closer union : 
such is the kernel and conclusion of this book. But let us empha- 
sise the point : union increases only through an increase in con- 
sciousness, that is to say in vision. And that, doubtless, is why the 
history of the living world can be summarised as the elaboration 
of ever more perfect eyes within a cosmos in which there is 
always something more to be seen. After all, do we not judge 
the perfection of an animal, or the supremacy of a thinking being, 
by the penetration and synthetic power of their gaze ? To try to 
see more and better is not a matter of whim or curiosity or self- 
indulgence. To see or to perish is the very condition laid upon 
everything that makes up the universe, by reason of the mysterious 
gift of existence. And this, in superior measure, is man's condition. 

But if it is true that it is so vital and so blessed to know, let us 
ask again why we are turning our attention particularly to man. 
Has man not been adequately described already, and is he not a 
tedious subject ? Is it not precisely one of the attractions of science 
that it rests our eyes by turning them away from man ? 

Man has a double title, as the twofold centre of the world, to 
impose himself on our effort to sec, as the key to the universe. 



Subjectively, first of all, we are inevitably the centre of 
perspective of our own observation. In its early, naive stage, 
science, perhaps inevitably, imagined that we could observe 
phenomena in themselves, as they would take place in our 
absence. Instinctively physicists and naturalists went to work as 
though they could look down from a great height upon a world 
which their consciousness could penetrate without being sub- 
mitted to it or changing it. They are now beginning to realise 
that even the most objective of their observations are steeped in 
the conventions they adopted at the outset and by forms or 
habits of thought developed in the course of the growth of 
research ; so that, when they reach the end of their analyses they 
cannot tell with any certainty whether the structure they have 
reached is the essence of the matter they are studying, or the 
reflection of their own thought. And at die same time they 
realise that as the result of their discoveries, they are caught body 
and soul to the network of relationships they thought to cast 
upon things from outside : in fact they are caught in their own 
net. A geologist would use the words metamorphism and 
endomorphism. Object and subject marry and mutually trans- 
form each other in the act of knowledge ; and from now on 
man willy-nilly fmds his own image stamped on all he looks at. 
This is indeed a form of bondage, for which, however, a 
unique and assured grandeur provides immediate compensation. 
It is tiresome and even humbling for die observer to be thus 
fettered, to be obliged to carry with him everywhere the centre 
of the landscape he is crossing. But what happens when chance 
directs his steps to a point of vantage (a cross-roads, or intersecting 
valleys) from which, not only his vision, but things themselves 
radiate? In that event the subjective viewpoint coincides with 
the way things are distributed objectively, and perception reaches 
its apogee. The landscape lights up and yields its secrets. He sees. 
That seems to be the privilege of man's knowledge. 
It is not necessary to be a man to perceive surrounding things 
and forces ' in the round '. All the animals have reached this point 
as well as us. But it is peculiar to man to occupy a position in 



nature at which the convergent lines are not only visual but 
structural. The following pages will do no more than verify and 
analyse this phenomenon. By virtue of the quality and the bio- 
logical properties of thought, we find ourselves situated at a 
singular point, at a ganglion which commands the whole fraction 
of the cosmos that is at present within reach of our experience. 
Man, the centre of perspective, is at the same time the centre of 
construction of the universe. And by expediency no less than by 
necessity, all science must be referred back to him. If to see is 
really to become more, if vision is really fuller being, then we 
should look closely at man in order to increase our capacity to 

But to do this we must focus our eyes correctly. 

From the dawn of his existence, man has been held up as a 
spectacle to himself. Indeed for tens of centuries he has looked at 
nothing but himself. Yet he has only just begun to take a scientific 
view of his own significance in the physical world. There is no 
need to be surprised at this slow awakening. It often happens 
that what stares us in the face is the most difficult to perceive. 
The child has to learn to separate out the images which assail 
the newly-opened retina. For man to discover man and take his 
measure, a whole series of ' senses ' have been necessary, whose 
gradual acquisition, as we shall show, covers and punctuates the 
whole history of the struggles of the mind : 

A sense of spatial immensity, in greatness and smallness, dis- 
articulating and spacing out, within a sphere of indefinite radius, 
the orbits of the objects which press round us ; 

A sense of depth, pushing back laboriously through endless 
series and measureless distances of time, which a sort of sluggish- 
ness of mind tends continually to condense for us in a thin layer 
of the past ; 

A sense of number, discovering and grasping unflinchingly 
the bewildering multitude of material or living elements involved 
in the slightest change in the universe ; 

A sense of proportion, realising as best we can the difference 
of physical scale which separates, both in rhythm and dimension, 



the atom from the nebula, the infinitesimal from the immense ; 

A sense of quality, or of novelty, enabling us to distinguish in 
nature certain absolute stages of perfection and growth, without 
upsetting the physical unity of the world ; 

A sense of movement, capable of perceiving the irresistible 
developments hidden in extreme slowness — extreme agitation 
concealed beneath a veil of immobility — the entirely new in- 
sinuating itself into the heart of the monotonous repetition of the 
same things ; 

A sense, lastly, of the organic, discovering physical links and 
structural unity under the superficial juxtaposition of successions 
and collectivities. 

Without these qualities to illuminate our vision, man will 
remain indefinitely for us — whatever is done to make us see — 
what he still represents to so many minds : an erratic object in a 
disjointed world. Conversely, we have only to rid our vision of 
the threefold illusion of smallness, plurality and immobility, for 
man effordessly to take the central position we prophesied — the 
momentary summit of an anthropogenesis which is itself the 
crown of a cosmogencsis. 

Man is unable to see himself entirely unrelated to mankind, 
neither is he able to see mankind unrelated to life, nor life un- 
related to the universe. 

Thence stems the basic plan of this work : Pre-Life : Life : 
Thought — three events sketching in the past and determining for 
the future (Survival) a single and continuing trajectory, the curve 
of the phenomenon of man. 

The phenomenon of man — I stress this. 

This phrase is not chosen at random, but for three reasons. 

First to assert that man, in nature, is a genuine fact falling (at 
least partially) within the scope of the requirements and methods 
of science ; 

Secondly, to make plain that of all the facts offered to our 
knowledge, none is more extraordinary or more illuminating ; 

Thirdly, to stress the special character of the Essay I am pre- 



I repeat that my only aim, and my only vantage-ground in 
these pages, is to try to see ; that is to say, to try to develop a 
homogeneous and coherent perspective of our general extended 
experience of man. A whole which unfolds. 

So please do not expect a final explanation of things here, nor 
a metaphysical system. Neither do I want any misunderstanding 
about the degree of reality which I accord to the different parts of 
the film I am projecting. When 1 try to picture the world before 
the dawn of life, or life in the Palaeozoic era, I do not forget that 
there would be a cosmic contradiction in imagining a man as 
spectator of those phases which ran their course before the 
appearance of thought on earth. I do not pretend to describe 
them as they really were, but rather as we must picture them to 
ourselves so that the world may be true for us at this moment. 
What I depict is not the past in itself, but as it must appear to an 
observer standing on the advanced peak where evolution has 
placed us. It is a safe and modest method and yet, as we shall see, 
it suffices, through symmetry, to bring out ahead of us surprising 
visions of the future. 

Even reduced to these humble proportions, the views I am 
attempting to put forward here arc, of course, largely tentative 
and personal. Yet inasmuch as they are based on arduous investi- 
gation and sustained reflection, they give an idea, by means of 
one example, of the way in which the problem of man presents 
itself in science today. 

When studied narrowly in himself by anthropologists or 
jurists, man is a tiny, even a shrinking, creature. His over- 
pronounced individuality conceals from our eyes the whole to 
which he belongs ; as we look at him our minds incline to break 
nature up into pieces and to forget both its deep inter-relations 
and its measureless horizons : we incline to all that is bad in 
anthropocentrism. And it is this that still leads scientists to refuse 
to consider man as an object of scientific scrutiny except through 
his body. 

The time has come to realise that an interpretation of the 
universe — even a positivist one — remains unsatisfying unless it 



covers the interior as well as the exterior of things ; mind as well 
as matter. The true physics is that which will, one day, achieve 
the inclusion of man in his wholeness in a coherent picture of the 

I hope I shall persuade the reader that such an attempt is 
possible, and that the preservation of courage and the joy of 
action in those of us who wish, and know how, to plumb the 
depths of things, depend on it. 

In fact I doubt whether there is a more decisive moment for 
a thinking being than when the scales fall from his eyes and he 
discovers that he is not an isolated unit lost in the cosmic solitudes, 
and realises that a universal will to live converges and is hominised 
in him. 

In such a vision man is seen not as a static centre of the world 
— as he for long believed himself to be — but as the axis and 
leading shoot of evolution, which is something much finer. 






To push anything back into the past is equivalent to reducing 
it to its simplest elements. Traced as far as possible in the direction 
of their origins, the last fibres of the human aggregate are lost to 
view and are merged in our eyes with the very stuff of the 

As for the stuff of the universe — the ultimate residue of the 
ever more advanced analyses of science — I have not cultivated 
that direct and familiar contact with it which would enable me to 
do it justice, that contact which comes from experiment and not 
from reading and makes all the difference. Besides, I know the 
danger of trying to construct a lasting edifice with hypotheses 
which are only expected to last for a day, even in the minds of 
those who originate them. 

To a considerable extent, the representation of the atom 
accepted at this moment is nothing more than a simple means, 
graphic even while subject to revision, enabling the scientist to 
put together and to show the non-contradiction of the ever more 
various ' effects ' manifested by matter — many of which, more- 
over, have still no recognisable prolongation in man. 

As I am a naturalist rather than a physicist, obviously I shall 
avoid dealing at length with or placing undue reliance upon these 
complicated and fragile edifices. 

On the other hand, among the variety of overlapping theories, 
a certain number of characteristics emerge which are inevitable in 
any suggested explanation of the universe. It is of these ' imposed ' 
factors that it is not unbecoming for a naturalist to speak when 
engaged on a general study of the phenomenon of man. In fact, 



inasmuch as they express the conditions belonging to all natural 
change, even biological, he is bound to take them as his point of 


Observed from this special angle, and considered at the outset in 
its elemental state (by which I mean at any moment, at any 
point, and in any volume), the stuff of tangible things reveals 
itself with increasing insistence as radically particulate yet essen- 
tially related, and lastly, prodigiously active. 

Plurality, unity, energy : the three faces of matter. 



The profoundly ' atomic ' l character of the universe is visible in 
everyday experience, in raindrops and grains of sand, in the hosts 
of the living, and the multitude of stars ; even in the ashes of the 
dead. Man has needed neither microscope nor electronic analysis 
in order to suspect that he lives surrounded by and resting on dust. 
But to count the grains and describe them, all the patient craft of 
modern science was necessary. The atoms of Epicurus were mert 
and indivisible. And the infinitesimal worlds of Pascal could still 
possess their animalcules. Today we have gone far beyond such 
instinctive or inspired guesswork bodi in certainty and precision. 
The scaling down is unlimited. Like die tiny diatom shells whose 
markings, however magnified, change almost indefinitely into 
new patterns, so each particle of matter, ever smaller and smaller, 
under the physicist's analysis tends to reduce itself into some- 
thing yet more finely granulated. And at each new step in 
this progressive approach to the infinitely small the whole 
configuration of the world is for a moment blurred and then 
1 [Atomkitf.] 



When we probe beyond a certain degree of depth and dilution, 
the familiar properties of our bodies— light, colour, warmth, 
impenetrability, etc. — lose their meaning. 

Indeed our sensory experience turns out to be a floating con- 
densation on a swarm of the undefinable. Bewildering in its 
multiplicity and its minuteness, the substratum of the tangible 
universe is in an unending state of disintegration as it goes down- 

B. Unity 

On the other hand the more we split and pulverise matter 
artificially, the more insistently it proclaims its fundamental unity. 

In its most imperfect form, but the simplest to imagine, this 
unity reveals itself in the astonishing similarity of the elements 
met with. Molecules, atoms, electrons— whatever the name, 
whatever the scale — these minute units (at any rate when viewed 
from our distance) manifest a perfect identity of mass and of 
behaviour. In their dimensions and actions they seem astonish- 
ingly calibrated — and monotonous. It is almost as if all that 
surface play which charms our lives tends to disappear at deeper 
levels. It is almost as if the stuff of which all stuff is made were 
reducible in the end to some simple and unique kind of substance. 

Thus the unity of homogeneity. To the cosmic corpuscles we 
should find it natural to attribute an individual radius of action 
as limited as their dimensions. We find, on the contrary, that 
each of them can only be defined by virtue of its influence on all 
around it. Whatever space we suppose it to be in, each cosmic 
element radiates in it and entirely fills it. However narrowly the 
' heart ' of an atom may be circumscribed, its realm is co-extensive, 
at least potentially, with that of every other atom. This strange 
property we will come across again, even in the human molecule. 

We add : collective unity. The innumerable foci which share 
a given volume of matter are not therefore independent of each 
other. Something holds them together. Par from behaving as a 



mere inert receptacle, the space filled by their multitude operates 
upon it like an active centre of direction and transmission in which 
their plurality is organised. We do not get what we call matter 
as a result of the simple aggregation and juxtaposition of atoms. 
For that, a mysterious identity must absorb and cement them, an 
influence at which our mind rebels in bewilderment at first but 
which in the end it must perforce accept. 

We mean the sphere above the centres and enveloping them. 

Throughout these pages, in each new phase of anthropo- 
genesis, we shall find ourselves faced by the unimaginable reality 
of collective bonds, and we shall have to struggle with them 
without ceasing until we succeed in recognising and defining their 
true nature. Here in the beginning it is sufficient to include them 
all under the empirical name given by science to their common 
initial principle, namely energy. 

c. Energy 

Under this name, which conveys the experience of effort with 
which we arc familiar in ourselves, physics has introduced die 
precise formulation of a capacity for action or, more exactly, for 
interaction. Energy is the measure of that which passes from one 
atom to another in the course of their transformations. A unifying 
power, then, but also, because the atom appears to become 
enriched or exhausted in the course of the exchange, the expression 
of structure. 

From the aspect of energy, renewed by radio-active pheno- 
mena, material corpuscles may now be treated as transient 
reservoirs of concentrated power. Though never found in a state 
of purity, but always more or less granulated (even in light) 
energy nowadays represents for science the most primitive form 
of universal stuff. Hence we find our minds instinctively tending 
to represent energy as a kind of homogeneous, primordial flux 
in which all that has shape in the world is but a series of fleeting 
' vortices '. From this point of view, the universe would find its 



stability and final unity at the end of its decomposition. It would be 
held together from below. 

Let us keep the discoveries and indisputable measurements of 
physics. But let us not become bound and fettered to the per- 
spective of final equilibrium that they seem to suggest. A more 
complete study of the movements of the world will oblige us, 
little by little, to turn it upside down ; in other words, to discover 
that if things hold and hold together, it is only by reason of 
complexity, from above. 


Up to now we have been looking at matter as such, that is to say 
according to its qualities and in any given volume — as though it 
were permissible for us to break off a fragment and study this 
sample apart from the rest. It is time to point out that this 
procedure is merely an intellectual dodge. Considered in its 
physical, concrete reality, the stuff of the universe cannot divide 
itself but, as a kind of gigantic ' atom ', it forms in its totality 
(apart from thought on which it is centred and concentrated at 
the other end) the only real indivisible. The history of conscious- 
ness and its place in the world remain incomprehensible to anyone 
who has not seen first of all that the cosmos in which man finds 
himself caught up constitutes, by reason of the unimpeachable 
wholeness of its whole, a system, a Mum and a quantum : a system 
by its plurality, a totum by its unity, a quantum by its energy ; 
all three within a boundless contour. 
Let us try to make this clear. 

A. The System 

The existence of ' system ' in the world is at once obvious to every 
observer of nature, no matter whom. 

The arrangement of the parts of the universe has always been 



a source of amazement to men. But this disposition proves itself 
more and more astonishing as, every day, our science is able to 
make a more precise and penetrating study of the facts. The 
farther and more deeply we penetrate into matter, by means of 
increasingly powerful methods, the more we are confounded by 
the interdependence of its parts. Each element of the cosmos is 
positively woven from all the others : from beneath itself by the 
mysterious phenomenon of ' composition ', which makes it 
subsistent through the apex of an organised whole; and from 
above through the influence of unities of a higher order which 
incorporate and dominate it for their own ends. 

It is impossible to cut into this network, to isolate a portion 
without it becoming frayed and unravelled at all its edges. 

All around us, as far as the eye can see, the universe holds 
together, and only one way of considering it is really possible, 
that is, to take it as a whole, in one piece. 

b. The Totum 

Now, if we consider this whole more attentively, we quickly see 
that it is something quite other than a mere entanglement of 
articulated inter-connections. If one says fabric or network, one 
thinks of a homogeneous plexus of similar units which it may 
indeed be impossible to section, but of which it is sufficient to 
have recognised the basic unit and to have defined the law to be 
able to understand the whole by repetition : a crystal or arabesque 
whose laws are valid for whatever space it fills, but which is 
wholly contained in a single mesh. 

Between such a structure and the structure of matter there is 
nothing in common. 

In its different orders of magnitude, matter never repeats its 
different combinations. For expedience and simplicity we some- 
times like to imagine the world as being a series of planetary 
systems superimposed, the one on the other, and grading from 
the infinitely small to the infinitely big : Pascal's two abysses 



once again. This is only an illusion. The envelopes composing 
matter are thoroughly heterogeneous the one with regard to the 
other. First we have a vague circle of electrons and other inferior 
units ; then a better-defined circle of simple bodies in which the 
elements are distributed as periodic functions of the atom of 
hydrogen ; farther on another circle, of inexhaustible molecular 
combinations ; and lastly, jumping or recoiling from the infini- 
tesimal to the infinite, a circle of stars and galaxies. These multiple 
zones of the cosmos envelop without imitating each other in such 
a way that we cannot pass from one to another by a simple 
change of coefficients. Here is no repetition of the same theme on 
a different scale. The order and the design do not appear except 
in the whole. The mesh of the universe is the universe itself. 

Thus it is not enough merely to assert that matter forms a 
block or whole. 

The stuff of the universe, woven in a single piece according 
to one and the same system, 1 but never repeating itself from one 
point to another, represents a single figure. Structurally, it forms 
a Whole. 

c. The Quantum 

Now, if the natural unity of concrete space indeed coincides 
with the totality of space itself, we must try to re-define energy 
with reference to space as a whole. 

This leads us to two conclusions. 

The first is that the radius of action proper to each cosmic 
element must be prolonged in theory to the utmost limits of the 
world itself. As we said above, since the atom is naturally 
co-extensive with the whole of the space in which it is situated — 
and since, on the other hand, we have just seen that a universal 
space is the only space there is — we are bound to admit that this 
immensity represents the sphere of action common to all atoms. 
The volume of each of them is the volume of the universe. The 
1 Which we shall call later on ' the Law of Consciousness and Complexity '. 



atom is no longer the microscopic, closed world wc may have 
imagined to ourselves. It is the infinitesimal centre of the world 


Now, on the other hand, let us turn our attention to the 
entirety of the infinitesimal centres which share the universal 
sphere among themselves. Indefinite though their number may 
be, they constitute in their multitude a group which has precise 
effects. For the whole, because it exists, must express itself in a 
global capacity for action of which we find the partial resultant in 
each one of us. Thus we find ourselves led on to envisage and 
conceive a dynamic standard of the world. 

True the world lias apparently limitless contours. To use 
varying metaphors: it behaves to our senses, either as a pro- 
gressively attenuated environment which vanishes without a 
limital surface in an infinitely decreasing gradation, or as a 
curved and closed space within which all the lines of our experi- 
ence turn back upon themselves, in which case matter only 
appears boundless to us because we cannot emerge from it. 

This is no reason for refusing it a quantum of energy, which 
the physicists, incidentally, already think they are in a position to 

But this quantum only takes on its full significance when we 
try to define it with regard to a concrete natural movement— 
that is to say, in duration. 


Physics was born, in the last century, under the double sign of 
fixity and geometry. Its ideal, in its youth, was to find a mathe- 
matical explanation of a world imagined as a system of stable 
elements in a closed equilibrium. Then, following all science of 
the real, it was inevitably drawn by its own progress into becom- 
ing a history. Today, positive knowledge of things is identified 
with the study of their development. Farther on, in the chapter 
on Thought, we shall have to describe and interpret the vital 



revolution in human consciousness brought about by the quite 
modern discovery of duration. Here we need only ask ourselves 
how our views about matter are enlarged by the introduction of 
this new dimension. 

In essence, the change wrought in our experience by the 
appearance of what we shall soon call space-time is this, that 
everything that up to then we regarded and treated as points in 
our cosmological constructions became instantaneous sections of 
indefinite temporal fibres. To our opened eyes each element 
of things is henceforth extended backwards (and tends to be con- 
tinued forwards) as far as the eye can see in such a way that the 
entire spatial immensity is no more than a section ' at the time t ' 
of a trunk whose roots plunge down into the abyss of an un- 
fathomable past, and whose branches rise up somewhere to a 
future that, at first sight, has no limit. In tliis new perspective the 
world appears like a mass in process of transformation. The 
universal totum and quantum tend to express and define them- 
selves in cosmogenesis. What at this moment are the appearance 
(qualitative) assumed from the point of view of the physicists and 
the rules followed (quantitative) by this evolution of matter ? 

A. The Appearance 

As seen in its central portion, which is the most distinct, the 
evolution of matter, in current theory, comes back to the gradual 
building up by growing complication of the various elements 
recognised by physical chemistry. To begin with, at the very 
bottom there is a still unresolved simplicity, luminous in nature 
and not to be defined in terms of figures. Then, suddenly( ?)' 

1 Some years ago this first birth of the corpuscles was imagined rather as a 
sudden condensation (as in a saturated environment) of a primordial substance 
or stuff", diffused throughout limitless space. Nowadays, for various convergent 
reasons, notably Relativity combined with the centrifugal retreat of the 
galaxies, physicists prefer to turn to the idea of an explosion pulverising a 
primitive quasi-atom within which space-time would be strangulated (in a 



came a swarming of elementary corpuscles, both positive and 
negative (protons, neutrons, electrons, photons) : the list in- 
creases incessantly. Then the harmonic series of simple bodies, 
strung out from hydrogen to uranium on the notes of the atomic 
scale. Next follows the immense variety of compound bodies in 
which the molecular weights go on increasing up to a certain 
critical value above which, as we shall see, we pass on to life. 
There is not one term in this long series but must be regarded, 
from sound experimental proofs, as being composed of nuclei and 
electrons. This fundamental discovery that all bodies owe their 
origin to arrangements of a single initial corpuscular type is the 
beacon that lights the history of the universe to our eyes. In its 
own way, matter has obeyed from the beginning that great law 
of biology to which we shall have to recur time and time again, 
the law of ' complexification V 

I say in its own way because, at the stage of the atom, we are 
still ignorant of many points in the history of the world. 

First of all, must all the elements mount each successive rung 
of the ladder from the most simple to the most complicated by a 
kind of onto- or phylo-genesis in order to raise themselves in the 
series of simple bodies ? Or do the atomic numbers only represent 
a rhythmic series of states of equilibrium, sets of pigeon-holes, as 
it were, into which nuclei and electrons fall in rough assemblages ? 
Moreover, in the one instance as in the other, must we regard the 
various combinations of nuclei as being equally possible at any 
one time ? Or, on the other hand, must we suppose that on the 
whole, statistically, the heavy atoms only appear in a determinate 
order, after the lighter ones ? 

1 [Complexification in the original: taken over here as the substantival form 
of the very rare English verb ' complexify ' — to make complex.] 

sort of natural absolute zero) at only some milliards of yean behind us. For 
understanding the following pages, the two hypotheses arc equivalent, in the 
sense that they put us, the one just as much as the other, in the midst of a 
corpuscular multitude from which we cannot escape in any direction; neither 
round about nor behind — but possibly forwards (cf. Part 4, chapter 2) through 
a singular point of interiorisation. 



It does not appear that science is at present able to give 
definitive answers to these questions, or to others like them. At 
the present time we are less well informed about the ascending 
evolution of atoms (I do not say ' the disintegration ') than we 
are about the pre-living and living molecules. It is none the 
less true, and this is the only point of real importance that concerns 
us here, that from its most distant formulations matter reveals 
itself to us in a state of genesis or becoming — this genesis allowing 
us to distinguish two of the aspects most characteristic of it in its 
subsequent stages. First of all, to begin with a critical phase, that 
of granulation, which abruptly and once and for all gave birth to 
the constituents of the atom and perhaps to the atom itself. Next, 
at least from the molecular level, of going on additively by a 
process of growing complexity. 

Everything docs not happen continuously at any one moment 
in the universe. Neither does everything happen everywhere 
in it. 

So we may summarise in a few lines the ideas about the trans- 
formations of matter accepted by science today : but only by con- 
sidering the latter in their temporal succession, and without as yet 
putting them anywhere within the cosmic expanse. Historically, 
the stuff of the universe goes on becoming concentrated into ever 
more organised forms of matter. But where, then, do these meta- 
morphoses take place, beginning, let us say, with the framework 
of molecules ? Is it indifferently at any point in space ? Not at all, 
as we all know, but only in the heart and on the surface of the 
stars. From having considered the infinitely small elements we 
are abruptly compelled to raise our eyes to infinitely great 
sidereal masses. 

The sidereal masses . . . Our science is at the same time troubled 
and fascinated by these colossal unities, which in some ways 
behave like atoms, but whose constitution baffles us by its 
enormous and — in appearance only ? — irregular complexity. 
Perhaps the day will come when some arrangement or periodicity 
will become apparent in the stellar distribution both as regards 
their composition and their position. Do not a ' stratigraphy ' 



and a ' chemistry ' of the heavens inevitably extend the story of 
the atoms ? 

We have not to entangle ourselves in these still misty per- 
spectives. No matter how fascinating they may be, they surround 
man rather than lead up to him. On the other hand, because of 
its consequences even up to the genesis of the intellect, we must 
notice and record the definite connection which, genetically, 
associates the atom with the star. For a long time yet physics may 
hesitate over the structure to be assigned to the astral immensities. 
In the meantime one thing is certain and is enough to guide our 
steps along the ways of anthropogenesis. That is that the making 
of greater material complexes can only take place under cover of a 
previous concentration of the stufl of the universe in nebulae and 
suns. Whatever the overall figure of the worlds may be, the 
chemical function ot each one of them already has a defuiable 
meaning for us. The stars are laboratories in which the evolution 
of matter proceeds in the direction ol large molecules, and that 
according to determinate quantitative rules which we must now 

B. The Numerical Laws 

What ancient thought half perceived and imagined as a natural 
harmony of numbers, modern science has grasped and realised 
in the precision of formulae dependent on measurement. Indeed, 
we owe our knowledge of the macro-structure and micro- 
structure of the universe far more to increasingly accurate 
measurements than to direct observations. And, again, it is ever 
bolder measurements that have revealed to us the calculable 
conditions to which every transformation of matter is subject 
according to the force it calls into play. 

This is not the place for me to embark on a critical discussion 
of the laws of energy. That part of them that is indispensable and 
accessible to every world-historian may be simply summarised. 
Considered from this biological aspect, broadly speaking, they 
may be reduced to the two following principles : 



First Principle. During changes of a physico-chemical type we 
do not detect any measurable emergence of new energy. 

Every synthesis costs something. That is a fundamental con- 
dition of things which persists, as we know, even into the spiritual 
zones of being. In every domain, the achievement of progress 
requires an excess of effort and therefore of force. Now whence 
does this increase come ? 

I11 the abstract, one might assume an internal growth of the 
world's resources, an absolute increase in mechanical wealth 
corresponding to the expanding needs of evolution ; but, in fact, 
things seem to happen otherwise. In no case does the energy 
required for synthesis appear to be provided by an influx of fresh 
capital, but by expenditure. What is gained on one side is lost on 
the other. Nothing is constructed except at the price of an 
equivalent destruction. 

Experimentally and at first sight, when we consider the 
universe in its mechanical functions, it does not reveal itself to 
us as an open quantum capable of containing an ever greater 
reality within its embrace, but as a closed quantum, within which 
nothing progresses except by exchange of that which was given 
in the beginning. 

That is a first appearance. 

Second Principle. In every physico-chemical change, adds 
thermodynamics, a fraction of the available energy is irrecover- 
ably ' entropised ', lost, that is to say, in the form of heat. Doubt- 
less it is possible to retain this degraded fraction symbolically in 
equations, so as to express that in the operations of matter nothing 
is lost any more than anything is created, but that is merely a 
mathematical trick. As a matter of fact, from the real evolutionary 
standpoint, something is finally burned in the course of every 
synthesis in order to pay for that synthesis. The more the energy- 
quantum of the world comes into play, the more it is consumed. 
Within the scope of our experience, the material concrete 
universe seems to be unable to continue on its way indefinitely in 
a closed cycle, but traces out irreversibly a curve of obviously 
limited development. And thus it is that this universe differ- 



entiates itself from purely abstract magnitudes and places itself 
among the realities which are born, which grow, and which die. 
From time it passes into duration ; and finally escapes from 
geometry dramatically to become, in its totality as in its parts, an 
object of history. 1 

Let us translate into images the natural significance of these 
two principles of the Conservation and Dissipation of Energy. 

We said above that qualitatively the evolution of matter 
reveals itself to us, hie et nunc, as a process during which the con- 
stituents of the atom are inter-combined and ultra-condensed. 
Quantitatively, this transformation now appears to us as a definite, 
but costly, operation in which an original impetus slowly becomes 
exhausted. Laboriously, step by step, the atomic and molecular 
structures become higher and more complex, but the upward 
force is lost on the way. Moreover, the same wearing away that 
is gradually consuming the cosmos in its totality is at work witlun 
the terms of the synthesis, and the higher the terms the quicker 
this action takes place. Little by little, the improbable combinations 
that they represent become broken down again into more simple 
components, which fall back and are disaggregated in the shape- 
lessness of probable distributions. 

A rocket rising in the wake of time's arrow, that only bursts 
to be extinguished ; an eddy rising on the bosom of a descending 
current — such then must be our picture of the world. 

So says science : and I believe in science : but up to now has 
science ever troubled to look at the world other than from 
without ? 

1 |cf. concluding sections of R. G. Collingwood : Idea oj Nature (O.U.P. 




On the scientific plane, the quarrel between materialists and the 
upholders of a spiritual interpretation, between finalists and 
determinists, still endures. After a century of disputation each 
side remains in its original position and gives its adversaries solid 
reasons for remaining there. 

So far as I understand the struggle, in which I have found 
myself involved, it seems to me that its prolongation depends 
less on the difficulty that the human mind finds in reconciling 
certain apparent contradictions in nature — such as mechanism and 
liberty, or death and immortality — as in the difficulty experienced 
by two schools of thought in finding a common ground. On the 
one hand the materialists insist on talking about objects as though 
they only consisted of external actions in transient relationships. 
On the other hand the upholders of a spiritual interpretation 
are obstinately determined not to go outside a kind of solitary 
introspection in which things are only looked upon as being shut 
in upon themselves in their ' immanent ' workings. Both fight 
on different planes and do not meet ; each only sees half the 

I am convinced that the two points of view require to be 
brought into union, and that they soon will unite in a kind of 
phenomenology or generalised physic in which the internal 
aspect of things as well as the external aspect of the world will be 
taken into account. Otherwise, so it seems to me, it is impossible 
to cover the totality of the cosmic phenomenon by one coherent 
explanation such as science must try to construct. 



We have just described the without of matter in its connections 
and its measurable dimensions. Now, in order to advance still 
farther in the direction of man, we must extend the bases of our 
future edifices into the within of that same matter. 

Things have their within ; their ' reserve ', one might say ; 
and this appears to stand in definite qualitative or quantitative 
connections with the developments that science recognises in the 
cosmic energy. These three statements [i.e., that there is a within, 
that some connections are qualitative, that others are quantitative] 
are the basis of the three sections of this new chapter. To deal 
with them, as here I must, obliges me to overlap ' Before Life ' 
and somewhat to anticipate ' Life ' and ' Thought '. However, is 
not the peculiar difficulty of every synthesis that its end is already 
implicit in its beginnings ? 


If there is one thing that has been clearly brought out by the 
latest advances in physics, it is that in our experience there are 
' spheres ' or ' levels ' of different kinds in the unity of nature, 
each of them distinguished by the dominance of certain factors 
which are imperceptible or negligible in a neighbouring sphere 
or on an adjacent level. On the middle scale of our organisms 
and of our constructions velocity does not seem to change the 
nature of matter. None the less, we now know that at the extreme 
values reached by atomic movements it profoundly modifies the 
mass of bodies. Among ' normal ' chemical elements, stability 
and longevity appear to be the rule : but that illusion has been 
destroyed by the discovery of radio-active substances. By the 
standards of our human existence, the mountains and stars are a 
model of majestic changelessness. Now we discover that, 
observed over a sufficiently great duration of time, the earth's 
crust changes ceaselessly under our feet, while the heavens sweep 
us along in a cyclone of stars. 

In all these instances, and in others like to them, there is no 



absolute appearance of a new dimension. Every mass is modified 
by its velocity. Every body radiates. Every movement is veiled 
in immobility when sufficiently slowed down. But on a different 
scale, or at a different intensity, there will become visible some 
phenomenon that spreads over the horizon, blots out the other 
distinctions, and gives its own particular tonality to the whole 

It is the same with the within of things. 

For a reason that will soon appear, objects in the realm of 
physico-chemistry arc only made manifest by their outward 

In the eyes of the physicist, nothing exists legitimately, at 
least up to now, except the without of things. The same intel- 
lectual attitude is still permissible in the bacteriologist, whose 
cultures (apart from some substantial difficulties) are treated as 
laboratory reagents. But it is already more difficult in the realm 
of plants. It tends to become a gamble in the case of a biologist 
studying the behaviour of insects or coclcnterates. It seems merely 
futile with regard to the vertebrates. Finally, it breaks down 
completely with man, in whom the existence of a within can 
no longer be evaded, because it is the object of a direct intuition 
and the substance of all knowledge. 

The apparent restriction of the phenomenon of consciousness 
to the higher forms of life has long served science as an excuse for 
eliminating it from its models of the universe. A queer exception, 
an aberrant function, an epiphenomenon — thought was classed 
under one or other of these heads in order to get rid of it. But 
what would have happened to modern physics if radium had been 
classified as an ' abnormal substance ' without further ado ? 
Clearly, the activity of radium had not been neglected, and could 
not be neglected, because, being measurable, it forced its way 
into the external web of matter — whereas consciousness, in order 
to be integrated into a world-system, necessitates consideration 
of the existence of a new aspect or dimension in the stuff of the 
universe. We shrink from the attempt, but which of us does not 
in both cases see an identical problem facing research workers, 



which have to be solved by the same method, namely, to discover 
the universal hidden beneath the exceptional ? 

Latterly we have experienced it too often to admit of any 
further doubt : an irregularity in nature is only the sharp exacer- 
bation, to the point of perceptible disclosure, of a property of 
things diffused throughout the universe, in a state which eludes 
our recogmtion of its presence. Properly observed, even if only 
in one spot, a phenomenon necessarily has an omnipresent value 
and roots by reason of the fundamental unity of the world. 
Whither does this rule lead us if we apply it to the instance of 
human ' self-knowledge ' ? 

' Consciousness is completely evident only in man ' we are 
tempted to say, ' therefore it is an isolated instance of no interest 
to science.' 

' Consciousness is evident in man,' we must continue, correct- 
ing ourselves, ' therefore, half-seen in this one flash of light, it has 
a cosmic extension, and as such is surrounded by an aura of 
indefinite spatial and temporal extensions.' 

The conclusion is pregnant with consequences, and yet I 
cannot see how, by sound analogy with all the rest of science, we 
can escape from it. 

It is impossible to deny that, deep within ourselves, an 
' interior ' appears at the heart of beings, as it were seen through 
a rent. This is enough to ensure that, in one degree or another, 
this ' interior ' should obtrude itself as existing everywhere in 
nature from all time. Since the stuff of the universe has an inner 
aspect at one point of itself, there is necessarily a double aspect to 
its structure, that is to say in every region of space and time — in 
the same way, for instance, as it is granular : co-extensiv e with their 
Without, there is a Within to things. 

The consequent picture of the world daunts our imagination, 
but it is in fact the only one acceptable to our reason. Taken at 
its lowest point, exactly where we put ourselves at the beginning 
of these pages, primitive matter is something more than the 
particulate swarming so marvellously analysed by modern physics. 
Beneath this mechanical layer we must think of a ' biological ' 



layer that is attenuated to the uttermost, but yet is absolutely 
necessary to explain the cosmos in succeeding ages. The within, 
consciousness 1 and then spontaneity — three expressions for the 
same thing. It is no more legitimate for us experimentally to fix 
an absolute beginning to these three expressions of one and the 
same thing than to any other lines of the universe. 

In a coherent perspective of the world : life inevitably assumes a 
' pre-life 'for as far back before it as the eye can see} 

In that case — and the objection will come from material- 
ists and upholders of spirituality alike — if everything in 
nature is basically living, or at least pre-living, how is it possible 
for a mechanistic science of matter to be built up and to 
triumph ? 

Determinate without, and ' free ' within — would the two 
aspects of things be irreducible and incommensurable ? If so, 
where is your solution ? 

The answer to this difficulty is already implicit in what we 

1 Here, and throughout this book, the term ' consciousness ' is taken in its 
widest sense to indicate every kind of psychism, from the most rudimentary 
forms of interior perception imaginable to the human phenomenon of reflec- 
tive thought. 

8 These pages had been written for some time when I was surprised to find 
their substance in some masterly lines recently written by J. B. S. Haldane : 
' We do not find obvious evidence of life or ruiiid in so-called inert matter, 
and we naturally study them most easily where they arc most completely 
manifested ; but if die scientific point of view is correct, we shall ultimately 
find them, at least in rudimentary forms, alJ through the universe.' 
And he goes on to add these words which my readers would do well to 
recall when I come to unveil (with all due reservations and corrections) the 
perspective of the ' Omega Point ' : 
' Now, if the co-operation of some thousands of millions of cells in our 
brain can produce our consciousness, the idea becomes vastly more plausible 
that the co-operation of humanity, or some sections of it, may determine 
what Comte calls a Great Being.' (Essay on Science and Ethics in The 
Inequality oj Man, Chatto, 1932, p. 113.) 
What 1 say is thus not absurd. Moreover, any metaphysician must rejoice 
to discover that even in the eyes of physics the idea of absolutely brute matter 
(that is to say, of a pure ' transient ') is only a first very rough approximation of 
our experience. 



have said above about the diversity of ' spheres of experience ' 
superposed in the interior of the world. It will appear more 
clearly when we have discerned the qualitative laws that govern 
in their growth and variation the manifestations of what we have 
just called the within of things. 


To harmonise objects in time and space, without presuming to 
determine the conditions that can rule their deepest being : to 
establish an experimental chain of succession in nature, not a 
union of ontological ' causality ; to see, in other words, and not 
to explain — this, let it not be forgotten, is the sole aim of the 
present study. 

From this phenomenal point of view (which is the scientific 
point of view) can one go beyond the position where our analysis 
of the stuff of the universe has just stopped ? In this last we have 
recognised the existence of a conscious inner face that everywhere 
duplicates the ' material ' external face, which alone is commonly 
considered by science. Can we go further and define the rules 
according to which this second face, for the most part entirely 
hidden, suddenly shows itself, and then as suddenly bursts through 
into certain other regions of our experience ? 

Yes, so it seems, and even quite easily, provided there are 
placed one after the other dirce observations that each one of us 
could have made, but which do not take on their true value until 
wc think of linking them together. 

A. First Observation 

Considered in its pre-vital state, the within of things, whose 
reality even in the nascent forms of matter we have just admitted, 
must not be thought of as forming a continuous film, but as 
assuming the same granulation as matter itself. 



Soon we shall have to return to this essential point. As far 
back as we began to descry them, the first living things reveal 
themselves to our experience as kinds of ' mega- ' or ' ultra- ' 
molecules, both in size and in number: a bewildering multitude 
of microscopic nuclei. Which means that for reasons of homo- 
geneity and continuity, the pre-living can be divined, below the 
horizon, as an object sharing in the corpuscular structure and pro- 
perties of the world. Looked at from within, as well as observed 
from without, the stuff of the universe thus tends likewise to be 
resolved backwardly into a dust of particles that are (i) perfectly 
alike among themselves (at least if they are observed from a 
great distance) ; (ii) each co-extensive with the whole of the 
cosmic realm ; (iii) mysteriously connected among themselves, 
finally, by a global energy. In these depths the world's two 
aspects, external and internal, correspond point by point. So 
much is this so that one may pass from the one to the other on the 
sole condition that ' mechanical interaction ' in the definition 
of the partial centres of the universe given above is replaced by 
' consciousness '. 

Atomicity is a common property oj the Within and the Without of 

B. Second Observation 

Virtually homogeneous among themselves in the beginning, the 
elements of consciousness, exacdy as the elements of matter 
which they subtend, complicate and differentiate their nature, 
little by little, with the passage of duration. From this point 
of view and considered solely from the experimental aspect, con- 
sciousness reveals itself as a cosmic property of variable size 
subject to a global transformation. Taken on the ascent, this huge 
phenomenon that wc shall have to follow all along the develop- 
ment of life right up to the appearance of thought, has ended by 
appearing commonplace. Followed in the opposite direction, it 
leads us, as wc have already seen, to the less familiar idea of 



inferior states that are ever less well defined and, as it were, dis- 

Refracted rearwards along the course oj evolution, consciousness 
displays itself qualitatively as a spectrum of shifting shades whose lower 
terms are lost in the night. 


Third Observation 

Finally, let us take from two different regions of this spectrum 
two particles of consciousness that are at unlike stages ot evolu- 
tion. As we have seen, there corresponds to each of them, by 
construction, a certain definite material grouping of which they 
form the within. Let us compare these two external groupings 
the one with the other and ask ourselves how they are arranged 
with regard to each other and with regard to the portion ot 
consciousness that each of them encloses. 
The answer comes at once. 

Whatever instance we may think of, we may be sure that 
every time a richer and better organised structure will correspond 
to the more developed consciousness. 

The simplest form of protoplasm is already a substance of 
unheard-of complexity. This complexity increases in geometrical 
progression as we pass from the protozoon higher and higher up 
the scale of the metazoa. And so it is for all the rest always and 
everywhere. Here again, the phenomenon is so obvious that we 
have long since ceased to be astonished by it. Yet its importance is 
decisive. For thanks to it we possess a tangible ' parameter ' 
allowing us to connect both the internal and the external hlms of 
the world, not only in their position (point by point), but also, as 
we shall verify later on, in their motion. 

The degree of concentration of a consciousness varies in 

inverse ratio to the simplicity of the material compound lined by 

it Or again : a consciousness is that much more perfected 

according as it lines a richer and better organised material edifice. 

Spiritual perfection (or conscious ' centreity ') and material syn- 



thesis (or complexity) are hut the two aspects or connected parts of one 
and the same phenomenon. 1 

And now we have arrived, ipso facto, at the solution of the 
problem posed for us. We are seeking a qualitative law of 
development that from sphere to sphere should be capable of 
explaining, first of all the invisibility, then the appearance, and 
then the gradual dominance of the within in comparison to the 
without of things. This law reveals itself once the universe is 
thought of as passing from State A, characterised by a very large 
number of very simple material elements (that is to say, with a 
very poor within), to State B defined by a smaller number of 
very complex groupings (that is to say, with a much richer 

Ln State A, the centres of consciousness, because they are 
extremely numerous and extremely loose at the same time, only 
reveal themselves by overall effects which arc subject to the laws 
of statistics. Collectively, that is, they obey the laws of mathe- 
matics. This is the proper field of physico-chemistry. 

In State B, on the other hand, these Jess numerous 2 and at 
the same time more highly individualised elements gradually 
escape from the slavery of large numbers. They allow their basic 
non-measurable spontaneity to break through and reveal itself. 
We can begin to see them and follow them one by one, and in so 
doing we have access to the world of biology. 

In sum, all the rest of this essay wiLl be nothing but the story 
of the struggle in the universe between the unified multiple and 
the unorganised multitude : the application throughout of the 
great Law of complexity and consciousness : a law that itself implies 
a psychically convergent structure and curvature of the world. 

But we must not go too quickly, and since we are still con- 

1 From this aspect one might say that, on the phenomenal plane, each being 
is constructed like an ellipse on two conjugate foci : 1 tocus ot material organi- 
sation and a tocus ot psychic centering — the two loci varying solidarity and in 
the same sense. 

1 As we shall see, this is despite the specifically vital mechanism of multipli- 



cerned with pre-life let us only keep in mind that, from the 
qualitative viewpoint, there is no kind of contradiction involved 
in admitting that a universe of mechanistic appearance may 
be built up of ' liberties ' — provided that the liberties are therein 
contained in a sufficiently fine state of division and imperfection. 


There is no concept more familiar to us than that of spiritual 
energy, yet there is none that is more opaque scientifically. On 
the one hand the objective reality of psychical effort and work is 
so well established that the whole of ethics rests on it and, on the 
other hand, the nature of this inner power is so intangible that 
the whole description of the universe in mechanical terms has had 
no need to take account of it, but has been successfully completed 
in deliberate disregard of its reality. 

The difficulties we still encounter in trying to hold together 
spirit and matter in a reasonable perspective are nowhere more 
harshly revealed. Nowhere either is the need more urgent of 
building a bridge between the two banks of our existence — the 
physical and the moral — if we wish the material and spiritual 
sides of our activities to be mutually enlivened. 

To connect the two energies, of the body and the soul, in a 
coherent manner: science has provisionally decided to ignore 
the question, and it would be very convenient for us to do the 
same. Unfortunately, or fortunately, caught up as we are here in 
the logic of a system where the within of things has just as much 
or even more value than their without, we collide with the diffi- 
culty head on. It is impossible to avoid the clash : we must 

Naturally the following considerations do not pretend to be 
a truly satisfactory solution of the problem of spiritual energy. 
Their aim is merely to show by means of one example what, in 
my opinion, an integral science of nature should adopt as its line 
of research, and the kind of interpretation it should follow. 



A. The Problem of the Two Energies 

Since the inner face of the world is manifest deep within our 
human consciousness, and there reflects upon itself, it would 
seem that we have only got to look at ourselves in order to 
understand the dynamic relationships existing between the within 
and the without of things at a given point in the universe. 

In fact so to do is one of the most difficult of all things. 

We are perfectly well aware in our concrete actions that the 
two opposite forces combine. The motor works, but we cannot 
make out the method, which seems to be contradictory. What 
makes the crux — and an irritating one at that — of the problem 
of spiritual energy for our reason is the heightened sense that we 
bear without ceasing in ourselves that our action seems at once 
to depend on, and yet to be independent of, material forces. 

First of all, the dependence. This is depressingly and magnifi- 
cently obvious. ' To think, we must eat.' That blunt statement 
expresses a whole economy, and reveals, according to the way 
we look at it, either the tyranny of matter or its spiritual power. 
The loftiest speculation, the most burning love are, as we know 
only too well, accompanied and paid for by an expenditure of 
physical energy. Sometimes we need bread, sometimes wine, 
sometimes a drug or a hormone injection, sometimes die stimula- 
tion of a colour, sometimes the magic of a sound which goes in 
at our ears as a vibration and reaches our brains in the form of 

Without the slightest doubt there is something through which 
material and spiritual energy hold together and are comple- 
mentary. In last analysis, somehow or other, there must be a single 
energy operating in the world. And the first idea that occurs to 
us is that the ' soul ' must be as it were a focal point of transforma- 
tion at which, from all the points of nature, the forces of bodies 
converge, to become intcriorised and sublimated in beauty and 

Yet, seductive though it be, the idea of the direct transforma- 



tion of one of these two energies into the other is no sooner 
glimpsed than it has to be abandoned. As soon as we try to 
couple them together, their mutual independence becomes as 
clear as their interrelation. 

Once again : ' To think, we must eat.' But what a variety of 
thoughts we get out of one slice of bread ! Like the letters of the 
alphabet, which can equally well be assembled into nonsense as 
into the most beautiful poem, the same calories seem as indifferent 
as they are necessary to the spiritual values they nourish. 

The two energies — of mind and matter — spread respectively 
through the two layers of the world (the within and the without) 
have, taken as a whole, much the same demeanour. They are 
constandy associated and in some way pass into each other. But 
it seems impossible to establish a simple correspondence between 
their curves. On the one hand, only a minute fraction of 
' physical ' energy is used up in the highest exercise of spiritual 
energy ; on the other, this minute fraction, once absorbed, results 
on the internal scale in the most extraordinary oscillations. 

A quantitative disproportion of this kind is enough to make 
us reject the naive notion of ' change of form ' (or direct trans- 
formation) — and hence all hope of discovering a ' mechanical 
equivalent ' for will or thought. Between the within and the 
without of things, the interdependence of energy is incontestable. 
But it can in all probability only be expressed by a complex sym- 
bolism in which terms of a different order are employed. 

B. A Line of Solution 

To avoid a fundamental dualism, at once impossible and anti- 
scientific, and at the same time to safeguard the natural complexity 
of the stuff of the universe, I accordingly propose the following 
as a basis for all that is to emerge later. 

We shall assume that, essentially, all energy is psychic in 
nature ; but add that in each particular element this fundamental 
energy is divided into two distinct components : a tangential 



energy which links the element with all others of the same order 
(that is to say, of the same complexity and the same centricity) 
as itself in the universe ; and a radial energy which draws it towards 
ever greater complexity and centricity — in other words forwards. 1 

From this initial state, and supposing that it disposes of a 
certain free tangential energy, the particle thus constituted must 
obviously be in a position to increase its internal complexity in 
association with neighbouring particles, and thereupon (since its 
centricity is automatically increased) to augment its radial energy. 
The latter will then be able to react in its turn in the form of a 
new arrangement in the tangential field. And so on. 

In this view, whereby tangential energy represents ' energy ' 
as such, as generally understood by science, the only difficulty is 
to explain the interplay of tangential arrangements in terms of 
the laws of thermo-dynamics. As regards this we may remark 
the following : 

a. First of all, since the variation of radial energy in function of 
tangential energy is effected, according to our hypothesis, by the 
intervention of an arrangement, it follows that as much as you like 
of the first may be linked with as little as you like of the second — 
for a highly perfected arrangement may only require an extremely 
small amount of work. This fits in with the facts noted in section 
A above. 

h. Moreover, in the system here proposed, we are paradoxically 
led to admit that cosmic energy is constantly increasing, not only 
in its radial form, but — which is much more serious — in its 
tangential one (for the tension between elements increases with 

1 Let it be noted in passing that the less an element is ' centred ' (i.e. the 
feebler its radial energy) the more wiU its tangential energy reveal itself in 
powerful mechanical effects. Between strongly ' centred ' particle* (i.e. of 
high radial energy) the tangential seems to become ' interiorised ' and to disap- 
pear from the physicist's view. Probably we have here an auxiliary principle 
which could help to explain the apparent conservation of energy in the 
universe (see para. b. below). We probably ought to recognise two sorts of 
tangential energy, one of radiation (at its maximum with the lowest radial 
values, as in the atom), the other of arrangement (only appreciable with the 
highest radial values, as in living creatures, man in particular). 



their ccntricity itself). This would seem to be in direct contra- 
diction with the law of conservation of energy. It must be noted, 
however, that this increase of the tangential of the second kind 
(the only one troublesome for physics) only becomes appreciable 
with very high radial values (as in man, for instance, and social 
tensions). Below this level, and for an approximately constant 
number of initial particles in the universe, the sum of the cosmic 
tangential energies remains practically and statistically invariable 
in the course of transformations. And this is all that science 

c. Lastly, since according to our reading, the entire edifice of 
the universe is constantly supported at every phase of its pro- 
gressive ' centration ' by its primary arrangements, it is plain that 
its achievement will be conditioned up to the highest stages by a 
certain primordial quantum of free tangential energy, which will 
gradually exhaust itself, following the principle of entropy. 

Looked at as a whole, this picture satisfies the requirements of 

Three questions remain still unanswered, however : 

a. By virtue of what special energy does the universe propagate 
itself along its main axis in the less probable direction of the higher 
forms of complexity and centricity ? 

b. Is there a definite limit and end to the ' elemental ' value and 
to the sum total of the radial energies developed in the course of 
transformation ? 

c. Is this final and resultant form of radial energies, supposing it 
exists, subject to reversal ? Is it destined one day to start disinte- 
grating so as to satisfy the principle of entropy, and fall back 
indefinitely into pre-living and still lower centres, by the exhaus- 
tion and gradual levelling-down of the free tangential energy 
contained in the successive envelopes of the universe from which 
it has emerged ? 

To be answered satisfactorily, these three questions must 
await a much later chapter, when the study of man will have led 
us to the concept of a superior pole to the world — the omega 




Somb thousands of millions of years ago, not, it would appear, 
by a regular process of astral evolution, but as the result of some 
unbelievable accident (a brush with another star ? an internal 
upheaval ?) a fragment of matter composed of particularly stable 
atoms was detached from the surface of the sun. Without 
breaking the bonds attaching it to the rest, and just at the right 
distance from the mother-star to receive a moderate radiation, 
this fragment began to condense, to roll itself up, to take shape. 1 
Containing within its globe and orbit the future of man, another 
heavenly body— a planet this time — had been born. 

So far our eyes have been straying over the unlimited layers 
in which the stuff of the universe is deployed. 

From now on let us concentrate our attention on this diminu- 
tive, obscure, but fascinating object which had just appeared. It 
is the only place in the world in which we are so far able to study 
the evolution of matter in its ultimate phases, and as far as our- 

Let us have a look at the earth in its early stages, so fresh yet 
charged with latent powers, as it balances in the chasms of the 

1 Once again astronomers seem to be returning to a more Laplaccan con- 
cept of" the birth of planets by the effect of knots and bulges in the cloud of 
cosmic dust originally floating round each star. 




What arouses the physicist's interest in this globe — new-born, 
it would seem, by a stroke of chance in the cosmic mass — is the 
presence of composite chemical bodies not to be observed any- 
. where else. 1 At the extreme temperature occurring in the stars, 
matter can only survive in its most dissociated states. Only simple 
bodies exist on these incandescent stars. On the earth this sim- 
plicity of the elements still obtains at the periphery, in the more 
or less ionised gases of the atmosphere and the stratosphere and, 
probably, far below, in the metals of the ' barysphcre '. But 
between these two extremes comes a long series of complex 
substances, harboured and produced only by stars that have 'gone 
out '. Arranged in successive zones, they demonstrate from the 
start the powers of synthesis contained in the universe. First the 
siliceous zone, preparing the solid crust of the planet. Next 
the zone of water and carbonic acid, enclosing the silicates in an 
unstable, mobile and penetrating envelope. 

In other words we have the barysphere, lithosphere, hydro- 
sphere, atmosphere and stratosphere. 

This fundamental composition may have varied and become 
elaborated in detail, but by and large it can be said to have estab- 
lished itself from the beginning. And it is from it that geo- 
chemistry develops progressively in two different directions. 

A. The Crystallising World 

In one direction, much the more common, terrestrial energy has 
tended from the outset to be given off and liberated. Silicates, 
water, carbon dioxide — these essential oxides were formed by 
burning up and neutralising (alone or in association with other 
simple bodies) the affinities of their elements. Carrying the 

1 Except, chough very fugitively, in the atmosphere of the planets nearest 
to our own. 



scheme progressively further, the result is the rich variety of the 
' mineral world '. 

The mineral world is a much more supple and mobile world 
than could be imagined by the science of the ancients. Vaguely 
analogous to the metamorphoses of living creatures, there occurs 
in the most solid rocks, as we now know, perpetual transforma- 
tion of a mineral species. 

But it is a world relatively poor in compounds, because of the 
narrow limit to the internal architecture of its elements. Accord- 
ing to latest estimates, we have found only a few hundred silicates 
in nature. 

Looking at them ' biologically ' we may say it is the character- 
istic of minerals (as of so many other organisms that have become 
incurably fixed) to have chosen a road which closed them pre- 
maturely in upon themselves. By their innate structure the mole- 
cules are unfitted for growth. To develop beyond a certain size 
they have in a way to get out of themselves, to have recourse to 
a trick of purely external association, whereby the atoms are 
linked together without true combination or union. Sometimes 
we find them in strings as in jade, sometimes in planes as in mica, 
and sometimes in a solid quincunx as in garnet. 

In this way, by simple juxtaposition of atoms or relatively 
simple atomic groups in geometrical patterns, regular aggregates 
may be produced whose level of composition is often very high, 
but they correspond to no properly centred units ; they are an 
indefinitely extended mosaic of small elements — such as we know 
to be the structure of a crystal, which, thanks to X-rays, can now 
be photographed. And such is the organisation, simple and stable, 
which the condensed matter around us has by and large perforce 
adopted from its origins. 

Considered in the mass, the earth is veiled in geometry as far 
back as we can see. It crystallises. 

But not completely. 



b. The Polymerising World 

In the course of and by virtue of the initial advance of the elements 
on earth towards the crystalline state, energy was constandy 
released and liberated (just as, today, it is released by mankind as 
a result of machinery). This was constantly augmented by energy 
furnished by the atomic decomposition of radio-active substances 
and by that given off by solar rays. Where could this surplus 
energy, available on the surface of the earth in its early stages, go 
to ? Was it merely to be lost around the globe in obscure emana- 
tions ? 

Another much more probable hypothesis occurs to us when 
we look at the world today. When it became too weak to escape 
in incandescence, the free energy of the new-born eartli became 
capable of reacting on itself in a work of synthesis. Thus, as 
today, it passed with the absorption of heat into building up 
certain carbonates, hydrates or hydrites, and nitrates like those 
which astonish us by their power to increase indefinitely the 
complexity and instability of their elements. This is the realm of 
polymerisation* in which die particles ' concatenate ', group 
themselves and exchange positions, as in crystals, in a theoretically 
endless network. Only, this time it is molecules with molecules in 
such a way as to form on each occasion [by closed or at all events limited 
combination) an ever larger and more complex molecule. 

This world of organic compounds ' is ours. We live among 
diem and are made of them. So intimately do we see it as con- 
nected with the phenomena of Life that we have got into the habit 
of considering it only in direct association with life already con- 
stituted. Moreover, despite its incredible wealth of forms, which 
far surpasses the variety of mineral compounds, it concerns such 
a tiny part of the substance of the earth that we are instinctively 

1 1 crust I shall be forgiven (as later in the case or " orthogenesis ') tor using 
this term in so generalised a sense, i.e. to include (as well as thesenct polymerisa- 
tion of the chemists) the entire process of ' additive complexiricatioii ' pro- 
ducing large molecules. 



inclined to relegate it to a minor position of geo-chemistry— 
like the ammonia and oxides that surround the lightning's 

If we wish later to fix the place of man in nature, it seems to 
me essential to restore to this phenomenon its true physiognomy 
and its ' seniority '. 

Whatever the quantitative disproportion of the masses they 
respectively involve, inorganic and organic chemistry are only 
and can only be two inseparable facets of one and the same 
telluric operation. And the second, no less than the first, must be 
regarded as already under way in the infancy of the earth. We 
are back at the refrain that runs all the way through this book. 
In the world, nothing could ever burst forth as final across the different 
thresholds successively traversed by evolution (however critical they be) 
which has not already existed in an obscure and primordial way. If 
the organic had not existed on earth from the first moment at 
which it was possible, it would never have begun later. 

There is good reason to think that around our nascent planet, 
in addition to the inchoation of a metallic barysphere, a siliceous 
lithospherc, a hydrosphere and an atmosphere, there was the out- 
line of a special envelope, the antithesis, we might say, of the first 
four : the temperate zone of polymerisation, in which water, 
ammonia and carbon dioxide were already floating in the rays of 
the sun. To ignore that tenuous fdm would be to deprive the 
infant earth of its most essential adornment. For, as we shall see, 
it is in this that the ' within of the earth ' was soon to be gradually 
concentrated (if we hold to what I have already said). 


When I speak of the ' within ' of the earth, I do not of course mean 
those material depths in which — a few miles beneath our feet — 
lurks one of the most vexatious mysteries of science : the 
chemical nature and the exact physical condition of the internal 
regions of the globe. The ' within ' is used here, as in the preceding 



chapter, to denote the ' psychic ' face of that portion of the stuff 
of the cosmos enclosed from the beginning of time within the 
narrow scope of the early earth. In that fragment of sidereal 
matter which has just been isolated, as in every other part of the 
universe, the exterior world must inevitably be lined at every 
point with an interior one. This we have shown already. Only 
here the conditions have changed. Matter no longer spreads out 
beneath our eyes in diffuse and undehnable layers. It coils up 
round itself in a closed volume. How will its ' inner ' layer react to 
such involution? 

First let it be noted that, by the very fact of the individualisa- 
tion of our planet, a certain mass of elementary consciousness was 
originally emprisoned in the matter of earth. Some scientists have 
felt obliged to invest some interstellar germs with the power of 
fecundating cooling stars. This hypothesis disfigures, without 
explaining, the wonderful phenomenon of life, with its noble 
corollary, the phenomenon of man. It is in fact quite useless. 
Why should we turn to space to look for a fecundating principle 
for the earth — which is incomprehensible in any case ? By its 
initial chemical composition, the early earth is itself, and in its 
totality, the incredibly complex germ we are seeking. Con- 
genially, if I may use the word, it already carried pre-life within 
it, and this, moreover, in definite quantity. The whole question is to 
define how, from this primitive and essentially elastic quantum, 
all the rest has emerged. 

To form an idea of the first phases of this evolution it will be 
enough to compare, stage by stage, on the one hand the general 
laws we have felt able to lay down for the development of spiritual 
energy, and on the other the physico-chemical conditions we 
have just acknowledged in the nascent earth. We have said that 
spiritual energy, by its very nature, increases in ' radial ' value, 
positively, absolutely, and without determinable limits, in step 
with the increasing chemical complexity of the elements of which 
it represents the inner lining. But the chemical complexity of the 
earth increases in conformity with the laws of thermo-dynamics 
in the particular, superficial zone in which its elements polymerise. 



If we put these two propositions side by side wc see that they 
interweave and shed light upon each other without ambiguity. 
With one accord they tell us that prc-life is no sooner enclosed 
in the nascent earth than it emerges from the torpor to which it 
appeared to have been condemned by its diffusion in space. Its 
activities, hitherto dormant, are now set in motion pari passu 
with the awakening of the forces of synthesis enclosed in matter. 
And at one and the same stroke, over the whole surface of the 
new-formed globe, the tension of internal freedoms begins to 

Let us look more attentively at this mysterious surface. 

A character to be noted at the outset is the extremely small 
size and the extremely great number of the particles of which it 
consists. For a thickness of some miles, in water, in air, in muddy 
deposits, ultra-microscopic grains of protein are thickly strewn 
over the surface of the earth. Our imaginations boggle at the 
mere thought of counting the flakes of this snow. Yet if we 
take it that pre-life has already emerged in the atom, are not these 
myriads of large molecules just what we ought to expect? 

But there is another point to consider. 

In a sense more remarkable than their multitude (and as 
important to keep in mind for future developments) is the solid- 
arity due to their very genesis which unites the specks of this 
primordial dust of consciousness. That which permits the growth 
of elementary freedoms is, essentially, I repeat, the growing 
synthesis of the molecules they subtend. And let me also repeat 
that this synthesis itself would never take place if the globe as a 
whole did not enfold within a closed surface the layers of its 

Thus, wherever we look on earth, the growth of the ' within ' 
only takes place thanks to a double related involution, the coiling up 
of the molecule upon itself and the coiling up of the planet upon 
itself. 1 The initial quantum of consciousness contained in our 
terrestrial world is not formed merely of an aggregate of particles 

1 Precisely the conditions wc find later on, at the other end of evolution, 
pre&iding over the genesis of the ' noosphere '. 



caught fortuitously in the same net. It represents a correlated 
mass of infinitesimal centres structurally bound together by the 
conditions of their origin and development. 

Here again, but in a better defined field and on a higher level, 
we find the fundamental condition characteristic of primordial 
matter — the unity of plurality. The earth was probably born by 
accident ; but, in accordance with one of the most general laws of 
evolution, scarcely had this accident happened than it was 
immediately made use of and recast into something naturally 
directed. By the very mechanism of its birth, the film in which 
the ' within ' of the earth was concentrated and deepened emerges 
under our eyes in the form of an organic whole in which no ele- 
ment can any longer be separated from those surrounding it. 
Another ' indivisible ' has appeared at the heart of the great 
' indivisible ' which is the universe. In truth, a pre-biosphere. 

And this is the envelope which, taken in its entirety, is to 
be our sole preoccupation from now on. 

As wc continue peering into the abysses of the past, wc can 
sec its colour changing. 

From age to age it increases in intensity. Something is going 
to burst out upon the early earth, and this dung is Life. 






After what wc have said about the latent germinal powers of 
the early earth, it might be thought that nothing had been left in 
nature which could pin-point the beginning of life, and that there- 
fore my chapter heading is inappropriate. The mineral world and 
the world of life seem two antithetical creations when viewed by 
a summary glance in their extreme forms and on the intermediary 
scale of our human organisms ; but to a deeper study, when we 
force our way right down to the microscopic level and beyond to 
the infinitesimal, or (which comes to the same thing) far back 
along the scale of time, they seem quite odierwise — a single mass 
gradually melting in on itself. 

At such depths all differences seem to become tenuous. For 
a long time we have known how impossible it is to draw a clear 
line between animal and plant on the unicellular level. Nor can 
we draw one (as we shall see later) between ' living ' protoplasm 
and ' dead ' proteins on the level of the very big molecular 
accumulations. We still use the word ' dead ' for these latter 
unclassified substances, but have we not already come to the 
conclusion that they would be incomprehensible if they did not 
possess already, deep down in themselves, some sort of rudi- 
mentary psyche ? 

So, in a sense, we can no more fix an absolute zero in time (as 
was once supposed) for the advent of life than for that of any 
other experimental reality. On the experimental and phenomeno- 
logical plane, a given universe and each of its parts can only have 
one and the same duration, to which there is no backward limit. 



Thus each thing extends itself and pushes its roots into the past, 
ever farther back, by that which makes it most itself. Everything, 
in some extremely attenuated extension of itself, has existed from 
the very first. Nothing can be done in a direct way to counter 
this basic condition of our knowledge. 

But to have realised and accepted once and for all that each 
new being has and must have a cosmic etnbryogenesis in no way 
invalidates the reality of its historic birth. 

In every domain, when anything exceeds a certain measure- 
ment, it suddenly changes its aspect, condition or nature. The 
curve doubles back, the surface contracts to a point, the solid 
disintegrates, the liquid boils, the germ cell divides, intuition 
suddenly bursts on the piled up facts . . . Critical points have been 
reached, rungs on the ladder, involving a change of state — jumps 
of all sorts in the course of development. Henceforward this is 
the only way in which science can speak of a ' first instant '. 
But it is none the less a true way. 

In this new and more complicated sense — even after (precisely 
after) what we have said about pre-lifc — our task, now, is to 
consider and define a beginning of life. 

Through a duration to which we can give no definite measure 
but know to be immense, the earth, cool enough now to allow 
the formation on its surface of the chains of molecules of the car- 
bon type, was probably covered by a layer of water from which 
emerged the first traces of future continents. To an observer 
equipped with even the most modern instruments of research, 
our earth would probably have seemed an inanimate desert. Its 
waters would have left no trace of mobile particles even upon the 
finest of our filters, and the most powerful microscope would 
only liave detected inert aggregates. 

Then at a given moment, after a sufficient lapse of time, those 
same waters here and there must unquestionably have begun 
writhing with nunutc creatures. And from that initial prolifera- 
tion stemmed the amazing profusion of organic matter whose 
matted complexity came to form the last (or rather the last but 
one) of the envelopes of our planet : the biosphere. 



No amount of historical research will ever reveal the details 
of this story. Unless the science of tomorrow is able to recon- 
struct the process in the laboratory, we shall probably never find 
any material vestige of this emergence of the microscopic from 
the molecular, of the organic from the chemical, of the living 
from the prc-living. One thing is certain, however — a meta- 
morphosis of tills sort could not be the result of a simple con- 
tinuous process. By analogy with all we have learnt from the 
comparative study of natural developments, we must postulate at 
this particular moment of terrestrial evolution a coming to matur- 
ity, a threshold, a crisis of the first magnitude, the beginning of a 
new order. 

We shall now try to determine what must have been on the 
one hand the nature, on the other the spatial and temporal 
modalities of this transformation ; and find an explanation that 
will fit in both with what we presume to have been the conditions 
on die early earth and with those of the earth as it is today. 


Seen from outside and materially, the best we can say at the 
moment is that life properly speaking begins with the cell. For a 
century science has concentrated its attention on tlus chemically 
and structurally ultra-complex unit, and the longer it continues 
to do so the more evident it becomes that in it lies the secret of 
which we have as yet no more than an inkling — the secret of the 
connection between the two worlds of physics and biology. The 
cell is the natural granule oj lijc in the same way as the atom is 
the natural granule of simple, elemental matter. If we are to take 
the measure of the transit to life and determine its precise nature, 
we must try to understand the cell. 

But to understand it, how are we to regard it ? 

Volumes have been written about the cell. Whole libraries 
are insufficient to contain all that has been meticulously observed 
concerning its texture, the functions of its ' cytoplasm ' and 



nucleus, the way it divides, and its connection with heredity. Yet, 
in itself, it is still a closed book, still as enigmatic as ever. It seems 
as though, once we have reached a certain depth in our explana- 
tion, we find ourselves reduced to marking time in front of an 
impregnable fortress. 

It might seem that the histological and physiological methods 
of analysis have given us all we could expect of them and that, 
to get any farther, our approach must be made from another 

For obvious reasons, cytology has so far proceeded with an 
almost exclusively biological oudook. The cell has been viewed 
as a micro-organism, or an example of proto-life, that must be 
interpreted in relation to its highest forms and associations. 

But this attitude has left half our problem in the dark. Like the 
moon in its first quarter, the cclJ has been illumined only on the 
side that looks towards the highest forms of life, leaving the odier 
side (the layers we have called pre-life) floating in darkness. That 
is most likely the reason scientifically speaking why its mystery 
has been so unduly prolonged. 

Marvellous as it is, marvellous as it seems to us in its isolation 
among the other constructions of matter, the cell, like everything 
else in the world, cannot be understood (i.e. incorporated in a 
coherent system of the universe) unless we situate it on an evolu- 
tionary line between a past and a future. We have turned a good 
deal of attention to its development and its differentiations. It is 
on its origins, that is to say on its roots in the inorganic, that we 
must now focus our researches if we want to grasp the essence of 
its novelty. 

Despite what experience has taught us in every other field, we 
have let ourselves become too much accustomed to thinking of 
the cell as an object without antecedents. Let us see what happens 
if wc regard it and treat it (as we certainly should) as something 
at one and the same time both the outcome of long preparation and 
yet profoundly original, that is to say, as a thing that is born. 



A. Micro-organisms and Mega-molecules 

First of all the preparatory process. 

When we try to look at the beginning of life in relation to its 
antecedents rather than its consequents, we at once notice some- 
thing which, strangely enough, had never struck us before. It is 
in and by means of the cell that the molecular world ' appears in 
person ' (if I may so express myself), touching, passing into, and 
disappearing in the higher constructions of life. 

Perhaps a word of explanation is needed. 

"When we look at bacteria, it is always against a background 
of the higher plants and animals, and this blinds our vision. What 
we should do is start from another angle, shutting our eyes to all 
the more advanced forms in living nature and even to most of the 
protozoa because, in their main lines, they are almost as differen- 
tiated as metazoa. In the latter, moreover, let us ignore the highly 
specialised and often very large cells of the nervous, muscular and 
reproductive systems. In other words let us confine ourselves to 
the more or less independent elements, externally amorphous or 
polymorphous, such as abound in natural ferments, are present 
in our blood and accumulate in our organs in the form of con- 
nective tissue, in other words let us confine ourselves to what 
appear the simplest and the most primitive cells in nature today. 
This done, let us look at this corpuscular mass in relation to the 
matter beneath it. Can we fail for a moment to see the obvious 
relationship, in both composition and appearance, between the 
proto-living world on the one hand and the physico-chemical 
one on the other? When we consider the simplicity of the cellular 
form, the structural symmetry, the infinitesimal size, the outer 
uniformity in character and behaviour in the mass or multitude, 
do we not find the unmistakable characteristics and habits of the 
granular formations ? In other words, we are still on that first rung 
of life, if not at the heart of ' matter ', at least fully on its border. 

Without exaggeration it may be said that just as man, seen in 
terms of palaeontology, merges anatomically with the mass of 



mammals that preceded him, so, probing backwards, we sec the cell 
merging qualitatively and quantitatively with the world of 
chemical structures. Followed in a backward direction, it visibly 
converges towards the molecule. 

This is already somediing more than a simple intellectual 

Only a few years ago what I have just said concerning the 
gradual conversion of the ' granule ' of matter into the ' granule ' 
of life might have been thought of as being as suggestive, but at 
the same time as unfounded, as the first dissertations of Darwin or 
Lamarck on evolution. But things are now changing. Since the 
days of Darwin and Lamarck, numerous discoveries have estab- 
lished the existence of the transitional forms postulated by the 
theory of evolution. At the same time the latest advances in bio- 
chemistry arc beginning to establish the reality of molecular 
aggregates which really do appear to reduce to measurable 
proportions the gaping void hitherto supposed to exist between 
protoplasm and mineral matter. If certain calculations (admittedly 
indirect) are accepted as correct, the molecular weights of some 
of the natural proteinous substances (such as the viruses so 
mysteriously associated with the zymotic diseases in plants and 
animals) may well be in terms of millions. Much smaller than any 
bacteria — so small in fact that no filter can retain them — the 
particles forming these substances are none the less colossal 
compared with the molecules normally dealt with in organic 
chemistry. It is fruitful to note that if we cannot yet consider 
them cells, some of their properties (particularly their faculty of 
multiplying in contact with living tissue) detinitely foreshadow 
those of proper organic beings. 1 

Thanks to the discovery of these giant corpuscles the foreseen 

1 Since the viruses have now become visible under the powerful magnifica- 
tion of the electron microscope in the form of fine rods asymmetrically active 
at their two extremities, the opinion has gained ground that we should include 
them among bacteria rather than among ' molecules '. But then, surely, the 
study of enzymes and other complex chemical substances is beginning to 
reveal that molecules have zjorm and even a great variety of forms. 



existence of intermediate states between the microscopic living 
world and the ultra-microscopic ' inanimate ' one has now passed 
into the field of direct experimentation. 

So from now on we are justified not only by our intellectual 
need of continuity but by positive indications when we state that, 
in accordance with our theoretical anticipation of the reality of a 
pre-life, some natural function really does link the mega-mole- 
cular to the micro-organic both in the sequence of their appear- 
ance and in their present existence. 

And this preliminary finding takes us another step towards a 
better understanding of the preparations for, and hence the origins 
of, life. 

B. A Forgotten Era 

I am not enough of a mathematician to be able to judge either the 
well-foundedness or the limits of relativity in physics. But, as a 
naturalist, I am obliged to recognise that the assumption of a 
dimensional milieu in which space and time are organically com- 
bined is the only way we have found to explain the distribution 
around us of animate and inanimate substances. Indeed the further 
we advance in our knowledge of the natural history of the world, 
the more clearly we realise that the distribution of objects and 
forms at any given moment can only be explained by a process 
whose duration in time varies directly with the spatial (or morpho- 
logical) dispersion of the objects in question. Every distance in 
space, every morphological deviation, presupposes and expresses 
a duration. 

Let us take the very simple case of existing vertebrates. In 
the time of Linnaeus the classification of these animals had advanced 
sufficiently for them to be arranged in a definite structure of 
orders, families, genera etc. Yet the naturalists of the day were 
unable to provide any scientific explanation of this system. Wc 
know now that the system of Linnaeus merely represents a 
present-day cross-section of a diverging bundle of phyla 1 emerging 

1 [Throughout this work, the author uses the word phylum in its looser 
sense for a zoological branch regardless of dimension.] 



one after the other through the centuries. 1 Accordingly the 
zoological separation of living creatures into different types 
reveals and measures in each case a difference in age. In the 
constellation of species, everything which exists and the place 
which it occupies implies a certain past, a certain genesis. In 
particular every time the zoologist meets a more primitive type 
than those he is familiar with (take the amphioxus, for example) 
the result is not merely to extend by one more unit the range of 
animal forms: no, a discovery of that sort ipso facto implies 
another stage, verticil, or ring on the tree-trunk of evolution. For 
the amphioxus we can only find a place in the present animal 
kingdom by supposing a whole ' proto-vertcbrate ' stage of life 
in the past, coming somewhere beneath the fishes. 

In the biologist's space-time, the introduction of a new morpho- 
logical end-form or stage needs immediately to be translated by a 
correlative prolongation of the axis of duration. 

Keeping this principle in mind, let us return to these astonish- 
ing giant molecules detected by recent science. 

It is possible, though unlikely, that these enormous particles 
form in nature today no more than an exceptional and relatively 
restricted group. But however rare they may be, and however 
modified by secondary association with the living tissue they 
batten on parasitically, we have no right whatever to treat them 
as monstrosities or aberrant forms. On the contrary, everything 
points to their being representative forms, even if only as a 
surviving residue of some particular stage in the construction 
of terrestrial matter. 

Thus, between our cellular zone and our molecular zone, 
hitherto supposed adjacent, another, the mega-molecular zone, 
has now insinuated itself. And at the same time, because of the 
close relation we have established between space and duration, 
an additional period must accordingly be inserted at some point 
far behind us in the history of the earth. Another circle on the 
trunk of the tree means another interval of time in the life of the 

1 Sec what I have to say on this subject in the next chapter, section 3, The 
Tree of Life. 



universe. The discovery of viruses and other similar elements not 
only adds another and important term to our series of states and 
forms of matter; it obliges us to interpolate a hitherto forgotten 
era (an era of sub-life) in the series of ages that measure the past 
of our planet. 

Accordingly, working down from incipient life, we find 
once again in a clearly defined terminal form that phase and that 
aspect of the early earth which we were led to suppose earlier on 
when we were climbing the ladder of multiple elements. 

Naturally we are not yet in a position to say anything definite 
concerning the length of time required for the establishment of 
the mega-molecular world. But though we cannot put it into 
figures, there are nevertheless some considerations to help us to 
form an idea of its order of magnitude. Here are three reasons 
among others for believing the process to have been one of the 
utmost slowness. 

In the first place ; its appearance and development must have 
been narrowly dependent on the transformation of the general 
conditions, chemical and thermal, prevailing on the surface of the 
planet. In contrast to life, which seems to have spread with an 
inherent speed in practically stable material surroundings, the 
mega-moleculcs must have developed according to the earth's 
sidereal rhythm, i.e. incredibly slowly. 

Secondly, the transformation, once begun, must have extended 
to a mass of matter sufficiently important and sufficiently large 
to constitute a zone or envelope of telluric dimensions before it 
could form the necessary basis for the emergence of life. That, 
too, must have taken a very long time. 

Thirdly, mega-molecules seem to show traces of a long 
history. How could we possibly imagine them forming suddenly, 
like the simpler corpuscles, and remaining so once and for alt? 
Their complication and their instability, rather like those of life, 
both suggest a long process of gradual accretions over a series of 

For these three reasons, we may now hazard the guess that the 
duration required for the formation of proteins on the surface of 



the earth was as long as, perhaps longer than, the whole of geo- 
logical time from the Cambrian period to the present day. 

And so the abyss of the past is deepened by yet another level 
or layer ; and though our incurable intellectual weakness en- 
courages us to compress it into an ever thinner slice of duration, 
scientific analysis is constantly forcing us to enlarge it. 

' This gives us the sort of basis we need for the views which 

Without a long period for maturing no profound change can 
take place in nature. On the other hand, granted such a period, it 
is inevitable that something quite new should be produced. A 
terrestrial era of the mega-molecule is not merely a supplementary 
period added to our schedule of durations. For something much 
more than that is involved, namely the requirement of a critical 
point which concludes and closes it. Which is exactly what 
we need to justify the idea that an evolutionary break of the first 
order must have taken place with the appearance of the first cells. 

But in what way can we envisage the nature of this break ? 

c. The Cellular Revolution 

a. External Revolution. From an external point of view, which is 
the ordinary biological one, the essential originality of the cell 
seems to have been the discovery of a new method of agglomera- 
ting a larger amount of matter in a single unit. This discovery 
was doubdess prepared over a long period by the tentative 
gropings in the course of which the mega-molecules gradually 
emerged ; but for all that it was sufficiently sudden and revolu- 
tionary to have immediately enjoyed prodigious success in the 
natural world. 

We are still a long way from being able to define die basic 
principle of cellular organisation, though it is probably clarity 
itself. We have, however, learnt enough to be able to estimate the 
extraordinary complexity of its structure and the no less extra- 
ordinary fixity of its fundamental type. 



First the complexity. Chemistry teaches us that the cellular 
edifice is based on albuminoids, nitrogenous organic substances 
(amino acids) of enormous molecular weight (up to 10,000 and 
over). In combination with fats, water, phosphorus, and all sorts 
of mineral salts (potassium, sodium, magnesium, and various 
metallic compounds) these albuminoids constitute a ' proto- 
plasm ', a sponge made up of innumerable particles in which 
come appreciably into play the forces of viscosity, osmosis, and 
catalysis which characterise matter when molecular groupings 
have reached an advanced stage. And that is not all. In the centre 
of this agglomeration a nucleus containing ' chromosomes ' may 
generally be seen against the background of the surrounding 
' cytoplasm ', perhaps itself composed of fine rods or filaments 
(' mitochondria '). With the increased powers of the microscope 
and advances in the use of stains, new structural elements continue 
to appear in the complex (whether in height or depth). We find 
a triumph of multiplicity organically contained within a mini- 
mum of space. 

Next the fixity. As we have already pointed out, indefinite 
as are the possible modulations of the fundamental theme, in- 
exhaustible as are the various forms it assumes in nature, the cell 
remains in all cases essentially true to itself. Looking at it, we 
hesitate to compare it to anything either in the world of the 
' animates ' or that of die ' inanimates '. Yet cells still seem to 
resemble one another more as molecules do than as animals do. 
We are right to look on them as the first of living forms. But are 
we not equally entided to view diem as the representatives of 
another state of matter, something as original in its way as the 
electronic, the atomic, the crystalline, or the polymerous ? As a 
new type of material for a new stage of the universe ? 

In this cell (at the same time so single, so uniform and so 
complex) what we have is really the stuff of the universe re- 
appearing once again with all its characteristics — only this time 
it has reached a higher rung of complexity and thus, by the same 
stroke (if our hypothesis be well founded), advanced still further 
in inferiority, i.e. in consciousness. 



b. Internal Revolution. It is generally accepted that we must 
assume psychic life to ' begin ' in the world with the first appear- 
ance of organised life, in other words, of the cell. I am thus at one 
with current views and ways of stating them when I assume a 
decisive step in the progress of consciousness on earth to have 
taken place at this particular stage of evolution. 

But since I have admitted a much earlier origin (a primordial 
one in fact) to the first lineaments of immanence within matter, 
it is incumbent on me to explain in what specific way the internal 
(' radial ') energy is modified to correspond with the external 
(' tangential ') constitution of the cellular unit. If we have 
already endowed the long chain of atoms, then molecules, then 
mega-molecules, with the obscure and remote sources of a rudi- 
mentary free activity, it is not by a totally new beginning but by a 
metamorphosis that the cellular revolution should express itself 
psychically. But how ? How are we to envisage the change-over 
(how are wc even to find room for a change-over) from the pre- 
consciousness inherent in pre-life to the consciousness, however 
elementary, of the first true living creature ? Are there several 
ways for a creature to have a within ? 

It is not easy, I must confess, to be clear on this point. Later on, 
in the case of thought, a psychical definition of the ' human 
critical point ' will emerge almost at once, because the direshold 
of reflection bears in itself something definitive and also because 
we have only to consult our own deeper selves to measure it. If, 
on the other hand, we wish to compare the cell with its pre- 
decessors, introspection can only help us through repeated and 
remote analogies. What do we know of the ' souls ' of animals, 
even of those nearest to ourselves ? At such distances downward 
and backward we must resign ourselves to being vague in our 

At grips with this obscurity and marginal approximation, wc 
are nevertheless able to make at least three possible observations — 
which are enough to fix in a useful and coherent way the position 
of the cellular awakening in the series of psychical transformations 
preparing the advent on earth of the phenomenon of man. 



Even if we accept that a sort of rudimentary consciousness 
precedes the emergence of life, especially if we accept it, such an 
awakening or jump (i) could, or, better, (ii) was bound to, happen, 
and hence (iii) we have a partial explanation for one of the most 
extraordinary renewals which the face of the earth has under- 
gone historically. 

In the first place it is quite conceivable that an essential change- 
over between two states or forms of consciousness, even on the 
lower levels, can happen. To return to and change round in its 
very terms the doubt formulated above, I would say there were a 
good many ways for a being to have a ' within '. A closed surface, 
irregular at first, may become centred. A circle can augment its 
order of symmetry and become a sphere. Either by arrangement 
of the parts or by the acquisition of another dimension, the degree 
of interiority ' of a cosmic element can undoubtedly vary to the 
point at which it rises suddenly on to another level. 

Now that precisely such a psychic mutation must have 
accompanied the discovery of cellular combination follows 
directly from the law accepted above as regulating the mutual 
relations of the within and the without of things. The increase of 
the synthetic state of matter involves, we said, a corresponding 
increase of consciousness for the milieu synthesiscd. To which we 
should now add : the critical change in the intimate arrangement 
of the elements induces ipso facto a change of nature in the state of 
consciousness of the particles of the universe. 

And now, in the light of these principles, let us look once 
again at the astounding spectacle displayed by the definitive 
budding of life on the surface of the early earth ; at the thrust 
forward in spontaneity ; at the luxuriant unleashing of fanciful 
creations ; at the unbridled expansion and the leap into the im- 
probable. Surely the explosion of internal energy consequent upon 
and proportioned to a fundamental super-organisation of matter is 
precisely the event which our theory could have led us to expect. 

Such an external realisation of an essentially new type of 
corpuscular grouping, allowing the more supple and better 
centred organisation of an unlimited number of substances at all 



and, simultaneously, the internal onset of a new type of conscious 
activity and determination : this double and radical metamor- 
phosis allows us reasonably to define, in regard to what is speci- 
fically original in it, the critical passage from the molecule to the 
cell — the transit to life. 

Before considering the subsequent evolutionary consequences 
of this transit, we must look a little closer into the conditions of 
its historical realisation— firsdy in space, and secondly in time. 

That is the object of the two sections which follow. 


Because the apparition of the cell was an event which took place 
on the frontiers of the infinitesimal, and because the elements 
involved were delicate in the extreme, now absorbed in sediments 
transformed long ago, there is no chance, as I have said already, of 
our ever finding traces of it. Thus at the outset we come up 
against that fundamental condition to which experience is subject, 
by virtue of which the beginnings of all things tend to be mater- 
ially out of our grasp. This is a law running right through history 
which we shall later be calling the ' automatic suppression of 
evolutionary peduncles '. 

Fortunately there are a number of different ways in which our 
minds can reach reality. What escapes the intuition of our senses 
we can encircle and define approximately by a series of indirect 
attacks. Let us follow this more roundabout method, the only one 
at our disposal when we try to picture new-born life. We can do 
so by stages in the following manner. 

a. The Milieu 

Wc must start by going back perhaps a thousand million years 
and wipe out the greater part of those material superstructures 
which form the features of the earth's surface today. Geologists 



are far from being agreed upon what our planet looked like at 
that distant period. I am inclined myself to picture it as enveloped 
in a shoreless ocean (of which the Pacific is perhaps a vestige) 
through which, at a few isolated points, protuberances of future 
continents had begun to emerge by volcanic eruption. Those 
waters were doubtless warmer than our seas today and also more 
fraught with free valencies that succeeding ages were gradually 
to absorb and stabilise. It was in such a liquid, heavy and active 
— at all events it was inevitably in a liquid environment— 
that the first cells must have formed. Let us try to distinguish 

At this distance of time their form can only be vaguely sur- 
mised. By analogy with what we must assume to be their least 
altered traces today, the best we can do is to imagine this prim- 
ordial generation in terms of granules of protoplasm, with or 
without an individually differentiated nucleus. But if the outline 
and individual structure remain inscrutable, certain characteristics 
of another order stand out sharply and lose none of their value 
because they are quantitative. I am referring to their incredible 
smallness and — natural consequence — their bewildering number. 

B. Smallness and Number 

Having reached this point we must force ourselves to make one of 
those ' efforts to see ' that I mentioned in my Foreword. We can 
look at the night sky year in year out without ever once making a 
real effort to apprehend the distances and thus the vast size of the 
sidereal masses. Similarly our eyes may be familiar with the field 
of vision of a microscope without our ever ' realising ' the dis- 
concerting dimensional hiatus which separates the world of man- 
kind from that of a drop of water. We can speak with accuracy 
about creatures measurable in hundredths of a millimetre, but 
have we ever attempted to transplant them mentally seeing them 
on their own scale in our framework ? Yet this effort at per- 
spective is indispensable if we wish to probe the secrets or even 



the * space ' of nascent life which can of course be nothing else 
than a granular life. 

That the first cells were infinitesimal there can be no doubt. 
That is determined by their originating out of mega-molecules. 
It is also established visually when we examine the simplest forms 
of life that we can find still today in the world. When we finally 
lose sight of bacteria they are no more than one five-thousandth 
of a millimetre long. 

And there seems positively to be in the universe a natural 
relationship between size and number. Either because they are 
faced with a relatively greater space or else to compensate for 
their reduced effective radius of individual action, the smaller 
creatures are the more they swarm. Measurable only in terms 
of microns, the first cells must have been numbered by the myriad. 
Hence as we get as near as we can to the threshold of life, it 
manifests itself to us simultaneously as microscopic and innumerable. 

There is nothing in this which should surprise us. Surely it is 
natural that life, as it just emerges from matter, should be ' drip- 
ping with molecularity \ 

What we need now is to understand how the organic world 
works and what is its future. On the bottom rung of that ladder 
we find number, an immense number. How are we to picture 
the historical modalities and the evolutive structure of this native 
multiplicity ? 

c. The Origin of Number 

From our remote standpoint it may be said that life no sooner 
started than it swarmed. 

To explain and make clear the nature of this multiplicity from 
the very beginning of animate evolution, two lines of thought 
suggest themselves. 

First of all we can assume that, though they only occurred in 
the first instance at a single point or a small number of points, the 
first cells multiplied almost instantaneously— as crystallisation 



spreads in a super-saturated solution. For surely the early earth 
was in a state of biological super-tension. 

Or, on the other hand, we can equally well suppose that the 
passage from mega-molecule to cell took place simultaneously 
at a great many points, the requisite conditions of instability being 
widespread. Just as, in the case of mankind, great discoveries are 
often simultaneous. 

Was the origin of cells ' monophyletic ' or ' polyphyletic ' ? 
Was this advance in the first instance simple and narrow but 
broadening outwards with extreme rapidity, or on the contrary 
relatively broad and complex from the first and subsequently 
spreading more slowly ? Which is the most suitable way of 
imagining the beginnings of the bundle of living beings ? 

All through the story of the organisms, at the start of each 
zoological group, we meet the same problem — single thread or 
multiple strand ? And just because the beginnings are always 
beyond the reach of direct vision, we constandy face the same 
difficulty of choosing between two hypotheses which are almost 
equally plausible. This hesitation worries and irritates us. 

But do we really need to choose — here at any rate ? However 
slender we may suppose it, the initial peduncle of terrestrial life 
must have contained an appreciable number of fibres rooted in the 
enormity of the molecular world. Conversely, however broad 
we imagine its section, it must, like all nascent physical realities, 
have enjoyed an exceptional aptitude to branch out into new 
forms. Fundamentally the two perspectives differ only in the 
relative importance attributed to one or other of the two factors 
(initial complexity and ' expansiveness ') present in both cases. 
Both, moreover, imply a close relationship of an evolutive kind 
between the first living objects on the early earth. So, ignoring 
their secondary conflicts, let us concentrate on the essential fact 
on which they both cast light. This, in my opinion, may be 
expressed as follows : 

From whatever angle we look at it, the nascent cellular world 
shows itself to be already infinitely complex. Either on account 
of its multiple origin, or because of its rapid variegation from a 



very few points of emergence, or again, we must add, because of 
regional differences (climatic or chemical) in the earth's watery 
envelope, we are led to envisage life on the protocellular level as 
an enormous bundle of polymorphous fibres. Already and even 
at these depths the phenomenon of life cannot be really under- 
stood except as an organic problem of masses in movement. 

An organic problem of masses or multitudes and not a simple 
statistical problem of large numbers : what does that difference 
imply ? 

D. Inter-relationship and Shape 

Once more, but now on the collective scale, we arc faced with the 
frontier between the physical and the biological worlds. As 
long as wc were dealing with churning atoms or molecules we 
could be content with the numerical laws of probability when 
working out the behaviour of matter. But from the moment 
when the monad acquires the dimensions and superior spontaneity 
of a cell, and tends to be individualised at the heart of a pleiad, a 
more complicated pattern appears in the stuff of the universe. 
On two counts at least it would be inadequate and false to imagine 
life, even taken in its granular stage, as a fortuitous and amorphous 

Firstly the initial mass of the cells must from the start have 
been inwardly subjected to a sort of inter-dependence which went 
beyond a mere mechanical adjustment, and was already a begin- 
ning of ' symbiosis ' or life-in-common. 

However tenuous it was, the first veil of organised matter 
spread over the earth could neither have established nor main- 
tained itself without some network of influences and exchanges 
which made it a biologically cohesive whole. From its origin, the 
cellular nebula necessarily represented, despite its internal multi- 
plicity, a sort of diffuse super-organism. Not merely a foam of 
lives but, to a certain extent, itself a living film. A simple re- 
appearance, after all, in more advanced form and on a higher 
level of those much older conditions which we have already seen 



presiding over the birth and equilibrium of the first polymerised, 
substances on the surface of the early earth. A simple prelude 
too, to the much more advanced evolutionary solidarity, so 
marked in the higher forms of life, whose existence obliges us 
increasingly to admit the strictly organic nature of the links 
which unite them in a single whole at the heart of the biosphere. 
Secondly (and this is more surprising) the innumerable 
elements composing at the outset the living film of the earth do 
not seem to have been taken or collected exhaustively and hap- 
hazard. Their admission into this primordial envelope gives 
rather the impression of having been mysteriously guided by a 
previous selection or dichotomy. Biologists have noted that, 
according to the chemical group to which they belong, the mole- 
cules incorporated into living matter are all asymmetrical in the 
same way, that is to say if a pencil of polarised light is passed 
through them they all turn the plane of the beam in the same 
direction — either they are all right-rotating or all left-rotating 
according to the group taken. More remarkable still, all living 
creatures, from the humblest bacteria to man, contain exactly the 
same complicated types of vitamins and enzymes, notwithstand- 
ing the great range of chemical forms possible; just as the higher 
mammals are all ' tritubercular ' and walking vertebrates all four- 
footed. Surely such similarity of living substance in dispositions 
which do not seem necessary suggests an early choice or sorting. 
This chemical uniformity of protoplasm at accidental points has 
been taken as proof that all existing organisms descend from a 
single ancestral group (the case of the crystal falling in the super- 
saturated solution). Without going as far as that, we may say 
that all it establishes is a certain initial cleavage (between right- 
rotating and left-rotating examples, for instance, whichever it 
may be) in the enormous mass of carbon matter at the threshold 
of life (instance of the discovery in n points at once). In any event, 
it is not important. The interesting thing is that on cither assump- 
tion the living world assumes the same curious appearance of a 
totality re-formed from a partial group : whatever may have 
been the complexity of its original impetus, it exhausts only a 



part of what might have been. Taken as a whole, the biosphere 
would thus represent only a simple branch within and above other 
less progressive or less fortunate proliferations of pre-life. And 
surely this amounts to saying that, considered globally, the appear- 
ance of the first cells gives rise to the same problems as do the 
origins of each of those later stems we call ' phyla '. The universe 
had already begun to ramify and it doubtless goes on ramifying 
indefinitely, even below the tree of life. 

Seen from afar, elementary life looks like a variegated multi- 
tude of microscopic elements, a multitude great enough to envelop 
the earth, yet at the same time sufficiently interrelated and 
selected to form a structural whole of genetic solidarity. 

These remarks, let it be said again, are only valid for the 
general features and characters taken as a whole. That is what 
should have been expected and we must be resigned to it. Follow- 
ing all the dimensions of the universe one same law of perspective 
inevitably blurs, in the field of our vision, the abysses of the past 
and the distant backgrounds of space : what is very far and very 
small loses its outline. For us to probe further into the phenomena 
accompanying its origin, it would be necessary for life— some- 
where or other on the earth— to be still generating today under 

our eyes. 

That chance— and here is my last point under this heading — 
is precisely the one we are not given. 1 


It would be quite conceivable a priori that the mysterious trans- 
formation of mega-molecules into cells, accomplished millions 
of years ago, might still, unnoticed, be going on around us at the 
extreme limits of the microscopic and the inhnitesimal. There are 
many forces in nature that we have supposed exhausted only to 
find, on closer analysis, that they are still flourishing. The earth's 

1 Unless of course (ind who can tell ?) chemists succeed in reproducing 
the phenomenon in the laboratory. 



crust has not yet stopped heaving and plunging under our feet. 
Mountain ranges are still being thrust up on the horizon. Granites 
are still growing under the continental masses. Nor has the organic 
world ceased to produce new buds at the tips of its countless 
branches. If movement can be concealed by extreme slowness, 
why should not extreme smallness have the same effect ? Indeed 
there is nothing inherently impossible about the continued birth 
today of living substance on an inhnitesimal scale. 

In fact, however, nothing indicates this to be the case. On the 
contrary, everything points the other way. 

We all know of the famous controversy of nearly a hundred 
years ago between the partisans and the adversaries of ' spon- 
taneous generation ' . . It would appear that too much was made 
at the time of the results of the battle, as though Pouchet's defeat 
closed the door on any scientific hope of giving an evolutionary 
explanation to the first origins of life. But today we are all agreed 
on one point. From the fact diat, in the laboratory, life never 
appears in a medium from which all germs have previously been 
eliminated, it would be a mistake to deduce (in the face of all 
manner of general evidence) that the phenomenon may not have 
happened under other conditions in other ages. Pasteur's experi- 
ments could not and cannot now in any way disprove the birth 
of cells on our planet in the past. But their success, proved over 
and over again by the universal adoption of methods of sterilisa- 
tion, seems to have really established one thing: that within the 
field and limits of what we can investigate, protoplasm is no 
longer formed directly from the inorganic substances of the earth. 1 

This obliges us at the outset to revise certain over-absolute 
ideas we may have harboured concerning the use and value in 
our sciences of explanations ' in terms of present causes '. 

1 Against Pasteur's experiments it may be objected that sterilisation is so 
brutal as to be capable of destroying not only the living germs, whose elimina- 
tion is desired, but also those ' pre-living ' germs from which alone life might 
emerge. However that may be, the most convincing proof to me that life was 
produced once and once only on earth is furnished by the profound structural 
unity of the tree of life (see below). 



A moment ago I reminded the reader that many terrestrial 
transformations which we could have sworn had stopped, and 
stopped ages ago, are still going on in the world around us. Under 
the influence of this unexpected observation which pampers our 
natural preference for palpable and manageable forms of experi- 
ence, our minds are inclined to slide gently into die belief that 
there never was in the past or will be in the future anything new 
under the sun. And it would only be one step farther to limit 
full and real knowledge to the events of the present. Funda- 
mentally, is not everything, apart from the present, mere ' con- 
jecture ' ? 

We must at all costs resist this instinctive limitation of the 
rights and scope of science. 

No. The world would not fully satisfy the conditions imposed 
by actuality — it would not be the great world of mechanics and 
biology — if we were lost in it like ephemeral insects which are 
unaware of all save their brief season. So vast are the dimensions 
of the universe disclosed by the present that, for this reason alone, 
all sorts of things must have happened in it before man was there 
to witness them. Long before the awakening of thought on earth, 
manifestations of cosmic energy must have been produced which 
have no parallel today. Thus, besides the group of pheno- 
mena subject to direct observation, there is for science a particular 
class of facts to be considered — specifically the most important 
because the rarest and most significant — those which depend 
neither on direct observation nor experiment, but can only be 
brought to light by a very authentic branch of ' physics ', the 
discovery of the past. And, to judge by our repeated failures to find 
its equivalent around us or to reproduce it, the first apparition of 
living bodies is clearly one of the most sensational of these events. 
With that, let us advance a step. There are two possible ways 
in which something can fail to coincide, in time, with our power 
of seeing. One is for it to happen at such distant intervals that the 
whole of our existence can run its course between two successive 
occurrences. The other, by which we miss it still more inevitably, 
is for it to have happened once and never be repeated. In other 



words, either a recurrent phenomenon of very infrequent 
periodicity (such as we meet so often in astronomy) or one 
strictly unique (as with Socrates or Augustus in human history). 
In which of these two ' inexperi mental ' or rather ' praeter- 
experimental ' categories do we find it most suitable, in the light 
of Pasteur's discoveries, to put the birth of life, the initial forma- 
tion of cells from matter ? 

There is no lack of facts to support the idea that organised 
matter might germinate periodically on the earth. Later on, 
when I come to outline the ' tree of life ', I shall be calling atten- 
tion to the coexistence in the living world of certain large 
aggregates (protozoa, plants, hydrozoa, insects, vertebrates) whose 
lack of basic relationship might be fairly satisfactorily explained 
in terms of heterogenous origins. Something like those succes- 
sive intrusions going back to different ages originating from the 
same magma, whose interlacing veins form the eruptive complex 
of a single identical mountain . . . the hypodiesis of independent 
vital pulsations would conveniently account for the morpho- 
logical diversity of the principal sub-kingdoms recognised by 
systematic biology. Moreover, there is no difficulty on the 
chronological side. In any case the length of time separating the 
historical origins of two successive sub-kingdoms is much greater 
than the age of mankind. So it is not astonislung that we should 
live in the illusion that nothing happens any more. Matter seems 
dead. But could not the next pulsation be slowly preparing 
around us ? 

I feel bound to point out and even, to a certain extent, to 
defend the conception of a spasmodic genesis of life. Yet I cannot 
actually adopt it. For there is one decisive objection against the 
idea of a number of different, successive, vital thrusts on the 
earth's surface — namely the fundamental similarity of all organic 

We have already called attention in this chapter to the curious 
fact that all molecules of living substances are asymmetrical in the 
same way, and contain precisely the same vitamins. Now, the 
more complex organisms become, die more evident becomes 



their inherent kinship. It manifests itself in the absolute and 
universal uniformity of the basic cellular pattern, and it manifests 
itself, particularly in animals, in the identical solutions found for 
various problems of perception, nutrition and reproduction — 
everywhere we find vascular and nervous systems, everywhere 
some form of blood, everywhere gonads and everywhere eyes. 
It continues in the similarity of the methods employed by units 
for collecting together in higher organisms and becoming 
' socialised ', and finally it shines clearly in the general laws of 
development (' ontogenesis ' and ' phylogenesis ') which give to 
the living world, considered as a whole, the coherence of a single 

Though one or the other of these many analogies might be 
explained by the adjustment of one and the same ' pre-living 
magma ' under identical terrestrial conditions, it would neverthe- 
less seem impossible to regard their unified complex as the result 
of a simple parallelism or a simple ' convergence '. Even if there 
were only one solution to the main physical and physiological 
problem of life on earth, that general solution would necessarily 
leave undecided a host of accidental and particular questions, and 
it does not seem thinkable that they would have been decided 
twice in the same way. And it is precisely in these ancillary modali- 
ties that living creatures resemble each other, even those belong- 
ing to very different groups. Accordingly the contrasts presented 
today by zoological phyla lose much of their importance (are 
they not simply effects of perspective combined with a progressive 
isolation ot existing phyla ?), and naturalists are becoming more 
and more convinced that the genesis of life on earth belongs to 
the category of absolutely unique events that, once happened, are 
never repeated. This is a much more credible hypothesis than 
would appear at first sight, if we succeed in forming a tenable 
idea of what is hidden in the history of our planet. 

It is fashionable nowadays in geology and geophysics to 
attach a preponderant importance to periodical phenomena. 
Seas advance and recede ; continental platforms rise and sink ; 
mountains are lifted and levelled ; glaciadons advance and retire; 



radio-active warmth accumulates in the depths then overflows 
on die surface. We hear of nothing save this majestic ' ebb and 
flow ' in treatises dealing with the vicissitudes of the earth. 

This predilection for what is rhythmic in events goes hand 
in hand with a preference for the ' actual ' in causes, and both 
alike are explained by precise rational needs. Whatever repeats 
itself is, at all events potentially, observable, and can be made 
subject to a law. It provides a scale on which we can measure 
time. I am the first to acknowledge the scientific quality of these 
advantages, yet I cannot help thinking that an exclusive analysis 
of the oscillations recorded by the earth's crust or the movements 
of life would omit from the inquiry what is the principal aim of 

For the earth is after all something more than a sort of huge 
breadiing body. Admittedly it rises and falls, but more important 
is the fact that it must have begun at a certain moment ; that it 
is passing through a consecutive series of moving equilibria ; 
and that in all probability it is tending towards some final state. 
It has a birth, a development, and presumably a death ahead. 
Thus all around us, deeper than any pulsation that could be 
expressed in geological eras, we must suppose there to be a total 
process which is not of a periodic character defining the total 
evolution of the planet; something more complicated chemicaJJy 
and deeper within matter than the ' cooling ' of which we used 
to hear so much ; yet something both continuous and irre- 
versible. An ever-ascending curve, the points of transformation 
of which are never repeated ; a constantly rising tide below the 
rhythmic tides of the ages — it is on this essential curve, it is in 
relation to this advancing level of the waters, that the phenomenon 
of life, as I see things, must be situated. 

If life, one day, was able to ' isolate ' itself in the primitive 
ocean, it was no doubt because the complexity of die earth's 
elements and their distribution had reached the general privileged 
condition which permitted and favoured the building of proto- 
plasms (which is what we mean by the earth being ' young '). 

And if thereafter life has never again been formed directly 



from the elements of the lithosphere or hydrosphere, this is 
apparently because the very emergence of a biosphere so dis- 
turbed, impoverished and relaxed the primordial chemism of 
our fragment of the universe that the phenomenon can never be 
repeated (unless perhaps artificially). 

From this point of view — and it seems to me the right one — 
the ' cellular revolution ' would now be seen as a critical singular 
point, an unparalleled moment on the curve of telluric evolution, 
the point o( germination. Protoplasm was formed once and once 
only on earth, just as nuclei and electrons were formed once and 
once only in the cosmos. 

This hypothesis has the advantage of providing a reason for 
the deep organic likeness which stamps all living creatures from 
bacteria to mankind. At the same time it explains why we never 
at any point find the formation of the least living thing wkich is 
not there as the result of generation. And that was the problem. 

But this hypothesis has two other notable consequences for 

Firstly, by separating the phenomenon of life from the 
numerous other periodical and secondary events on earth, and by 
making it one of the principal landmarks (or parameters) of the 
sidereal evolution of the globe, it rectifies our sense of proportion 
and of values and hence renews our perspective of the world. 

Secondly, by the very fact of showing that the origin of 
organised bodies is linked with a chemical transformation un- 
precedented and unrepeated in the history of the world, the 
hypothesis inclines us to think of the energy contained in the 
living layer of our planet as developing from and within a sort 
of closed ' quantum ', defined by the amplitude of this primordial 

Life was born and propagates itself on the earth as a solitary 

It is the propagation of that unique wave that we must now 
follow, right up to man and if possible beyond him. 




When a physicist wants to study the development of a wave, he 
begins by calculating the pulsation of a single particle. Then he 
reduces the vibrating medium to its main characteristics and 
directions of elasticity, and generalises the results found in the 
instance of the element. He thus obtains an overall picture as 
close as possible to the movement of the whole he is trying to 

When he faces the task of describing the ascent of life, the 
biologist is obliged to follow a similar method in his own special 
way. It is impossible to reduce tins enormous and complex 
phenomenon to order without first analysing the processes dis- 
covered by life for its advance in each of its elements taken in 
isolation. It is equally impossible to distinguish the general 
behaviour adopted by the total multitude of individual pro- 
gressions without choosing the most expressive and luminous 
features of their resultant effect. 

In the pages that follow I intend to develop a simplified but 
structural representation of life evolving on earth ; a vision so 
homogeneous and coherent that its truth is irresistible. I provide 
no minor details and no arguments, but only a perspective that 
the reader may sec and accept — or not see. 

The gist of what I mean comes under these three headings : 

1. The elemental movements of life, 

2. The spontaneous ramification of the living mass, 

3. The tree of life. 

All this will first be studied at the surface and from without. We 



shall only start probing into the within of tilings in the subsequent 


A. Reproduction 

At the base of the entire process whereby the envelope of the 
biosphere spreads its web over the face of the earth stands the 
meclianism of reproduction which is typical of life. Sooner or 
later each cell divides (by mitotic, or amitotic division) and gives 
birth to another cell similar to itself. First, a single centre ; then 
two. Everything in the subsequent development of life stems 
from this potent primordial phenomenon. 

In itself, cell division seems to be due to the simple need of 
the living particle to find a remedy for its molecular fragility 
and for the structural difficulties involved in continued growth. 
The process is one of rejuvenation and shedding. The more 
limited groups of atoms, the micro-molecules, have an almost 
indefinite longevity, and with it an equivalent rigidity. The cell, 
continually in the toils of assimilation, must split in two to con- 
tinue to exist. At first sight reproduction appears as a simple 
process thought up by nature to ensure the permanence of the 
unstable in the case of these vast molecular edifices. 

But, as always happens in die world, what was at first a happy 
accident or means of survival, is promptly transformed and used 
as an instrument of progress and conquest. Life at fust seems to 
have reproduced itself only in self-defence ; but this was a mere 
prelude to its vast conquests. 

B. Multiplication 

For, once introduced into the stuff of the universe, the principle 
of the duplication of living particles knows no limits other than 
those of the quantity of matter provided. It has been calculated 



that, in a few generations, a single infusorian could by simple 
division of itself and its descendants cover the whole surface of 
the earth. Every volume, however great, succumbs to the effects 
of geometrical progression, and this is not a pure extrapolation 
of the mind. In its ability to double itself and to go on doubling 
itself without let or hindrance, life possesses a force of expansion 
as invincible as that of a body that dilates or vaporises. But 
whereas in the case of so-called inert matter the increase in 
volume soon reaches a point of equilibrium, no such limit appears 
to be set to the expansion of living substance. The more the 
phenomenon of cellular division spreads, the more it gains in 
virulence. Once fission has started, nothing from within can 
arrest its devouring and creative conflagration, because it is 
spontaneous. Nor is there any external influence powerful 
enough to check, the process. 

c. Renovation 

Yet this is only the first result and only the quantitative side of 
the process. Reproduction doubles the mother cell. Thus, by a 
mechanism which is the inverse of chemical disintegration, it 
multiplies without crumbling. At the same time, however, it trans- 
forms what was only intended to be prolonged. Closed in on 
itself, the living clement reaches more or less quickly a state of 
immobility. It becomes stuck and coagulated in its evolution. 
Then by the act of reproduction it regains the faculty for inner 
re-adjustment and consequendy takes on a new appearance and 
direction. The process is one of pluralisation in form as well as in 
number. The elemental ripple of life that emerges from each 
individual unit does not spread outwards in a monotonous circle 
formed of individual units exactly like itself. It is diffracted and 
becomes iridescent, with an indefinite scale of variegated tonal- 
ides. The living unit is a centre of irresistible multiplication, and 
ipso facto an equally irresistible focus of diversification. 



D. Conjugation 

And then, so it seems, so as to enlarge the breach thus made by 
its first inroads in the ramparts of the unorganised world, life 
discovered the wonderful process of conjugation. It would take 
a whole book to describe and extol the growth and sublimation 
of sexual dualism in the course of evolution from the cell to man. 
At the early stages that we are now considering, the phenomenon 
appears in the main as a means of accelerating and intensifying 
the double effect (multiplication and diversification) obtained by 
asexual reproduction such as is still prevalent in many of the lower 
organisms and even with the individual cells of our own bodies. 
By the first conjugation of two elements, however little they 
may as yet have been differentiated into male and female, the door 
was thrown open to diose modes of generation whereby a single 
individual can pulverise itself into a myriad of germs. Simul- 
taneously we find coming into play the endless permutations and 
combinations of ' characters ' so dear to modern geneticists. 
Instead of simply radiating from each centre in process of division, 
the rays of life now anastomose — exchanging and varying their 
respective riches. We no more dream of being astonished at this 
prodigious invention than at the discoveries of fire, bread or 
writing. Yet what chances and what fumblings — and what 
endless ages therefore — were necessary before this fundamental 
discovery from which we have sprung was matured. And how 
much longer still before it found its complement and natural 
fulfdment in the no less revolutionary innovation of association'. 

E. Association 

In first analysis — and supposing we ignore deeper factors for die 
moment — the grouping of living particles into complex organ- 
isms is an almost inevitable consequence of their multiplication. 
Cells tend to congregate because they press against each other or 



are even born in clusters. But the purely mechanical necessity or 
opportunity to get together engendered in the long run a definite 
method of biological improvement. 

We still seem to be able to see all the stages of this still un- 
finished march of nature towards the unification or synthesis of 
the ever-increasing products of living reproduction. At the 
bottom we find the simple aggregate, as in bacteria and the lower 
fungi. One stage higher comes the colony of attached cells, not 
yet centralised, though distinct specialisation has begun, as with 
the higher vegetable forms and the bryozoa. Higher still is the 
metazoan cell of cells, in which by a prodigious critical transforma- 
tion an autonomous centre is established (as though by excessive 
shrinking) over the organised group of living particles. And still 
farther on, to round oft the list, at the present limit of our experi- 
ence and of life's experiments, comes society — that mysterious 
association of free metazoans in which (with varying success) 
the formation of hyper-complex units by ' mega-svnthesis ' 
seems to be being attempted. 

The last part of this book will be particularly devoted to this 
last and highest form of aggregation, in which the self-organising 
effort of matter culminates perhaps in society as capable of reflec- 
tion. Here wc must confine ourselves to pointing out that 
association, considered at all its levels, is not a sporadic or acciden- 
tal appearance in the animal kingdom. On the contrary, it 
represents one of die most universal and constant expedients (and 
thus one of the most significant) used by life in its expansion. Two 
of its advantages are immediately obvious. Thanks to it, living 
substance is able to build itself up in sufficient bulk to escape 
innumerable external obstacles (capillary attraction, osmotic 
pressure, chemical variation of the medium, etc.) winch paralyse 
the microscopic organisms. In biology, as in navigation, a certain 
size is physically necessary for certain movements. Thanks to it 
again, the organism (here too because of its increased volume) is 
able to find room inside itself to lodge the countless mechanisms 
added successively in the course of its differentiation. 



F. Controlled Additivity 

Reproduction, conjugation, association . . . No matter how far 
they are extended, these various activities of the cell in themselves 
only lead to a surface deployment of the organisms. If it had been 
left to their resources alone, life would have spread and varied, 
but always on the same level. It would have been like an aero- 
plane which can taxi but not become airborne. It would never 
have taken off. 

It is at this point that the phenomenon of additivity intervenes 
and acts as a vertical component. 

There seems to be no lack of examples, in the course of bio- 
logical evolution, of transformations acting horizontally by pure 
crossing of characters. One example is the mutation we call 
Mendelian. But when we look deeper and more generally we 
sec that the rejuvenations made possible by each reproduction 
achieve something more than mere substitution. They add, one to 
the other, and their sum increases in a pre-determined direction. 
Dispositions are accentuated, organs are adjusted or supplemented. 
We get diversification, the growing specialisation of factors 
forming a single genealogical sequence — in other words, the 
apparition of the line as a natural unit distinct from the individual. 
This law of controlled complication, the mature stage of the pro- 
cess in which we get first the micro-molecule then the mega- 
molecule and finally the first cells, is known to biologists as 
orthogenesis. 1 

Orthogenesis is the dynamic and only complete form of 
heredity. The word conceals deep and real springs of cosmic 
extent. We shall find this out little by litde, but meanwhile one 

1 On the pretext of its being used in various questionable or restricted senses, 
or of its having a metaphysical flavour, some biologists would like to suppress 
the word ' orthogenesis '. But my considered opinion is that the word is 
essentia] and indispensable for singling out and affirming the manifest property 
of living matter to form a system in which ' terms succeed each other experi- 
mentally, following constandy increasing degrees of centro-complexity '. 



point already stands out clearly at the present stage of our inquiry. 
Thanks to its characteristic additive power, living matter (unlike 
the matter of the physicists) finds itself ' ballasted ' with complica- 
tions and instability. It falls, or rather rises, towards forms that 
are more and more improbable. 

Without orthogenesis life would only have spread ; with it 
there is an ascent of life that is invincible. 

A Corollary : The Ways of Life 

At this point let us pause for a moment. Before we try to see 
where these various laws regulating the movements of the isolated 
particle lead us, when extended to the whole of life, let us attempt 
to distinguish the general lines of behaviour or attitudes which, in 
accordance with these elementary laws, characterise life in move- 
ment at all levels and in all circumstances. 

These attitudes or ways of proceeding can be reduced to three: 
profusion, ingenuity and (judged from our individual point of 
view) indifference. 

a. Let us first consider profusion, which is born of unlimited 

Life advances by mass effects, by dint of multitudes flung into 
action without apparent plan. Milliards of germs and millions of 
adults jostling, shoving and devouring one another, fight 
for elbow room and for the best and largest living space. Despite 
all the waste and ferocity, all the mystery and scandal it involves, 
there is, as we must be fair and admit, a great deal of biological 
efficiency in the struggle {or life. In the course of this implacable 
contest between masses of living substance in irresistible expan- 
sion, the individual unit is undeniably tried to the limits of its 
strength and resources. ' Survival of the fittest by natural selec- 
tion ' is not a meaningless expression, provided it is not taken to 
imply either a final ideal or a final explanation. 

But it is not the individual unit that seems to count for most 
in the phenomenon. What we find within the struggle to live is 



something deeper than a series of duels ; it is a conflict of chances. 
By reckless self-reproduction life takes its precautions against 
mishap. It increases its chances of survival and at the same time 
multiplies its chances of progress. 

Once more, this time on the plane of animate particles, we find 
the fundamental technique of groping, the specific and invincible 
weapon of all expanding multitudes. This groping strangely 
combines the blind fantasy of large numbers with the precise 
orientation of a specific target. It would be a mistake to see it as 
mere chance. Groping is directed chance. It means pervading 
everything so as to try everything, and trying everything so as to 
find everything. Surely in the last resort it is precisely to develop 
this procedure (always increasing in size and cost in proportion 
as it spreads) that nature has had recourse to profusion. 
b. Next comes ingenuity. This is the indispensable condition, or 
more precisely the constructive facet, of additiviry. 

To accumulate characters in stable and coherent aggregates, 
life has to be very clever indeed. Not only has it to invent the 
machine but, like an engineer, so design it that it occupies the 
minimum space and is simple and resilient. And this implies and 
involves, as regards the structure of organisms (particularly die 
higher ones), a property which must never be forgotten. 

What can be put together can be taken apart. 

At an early stage of their discoveries biologists were surprised 
and fascinated by the fact that living beings, however perfect 
(or even more perfect) their spontaneity, were always decom- 
posable into an endless chain of dosed mechanisms. From this 
they thought they could deduce universal materialism. But they 
overlooked the essential difference between a natural whole and 
the elements into which it is analysed. 

By its very construction, it is true, every organism is always 
and inevitably reducible into its component parts. But it by no 
means follows that the sum of the parts is the same as the whole, 
or that, in the whole, some specifically new value may not 
emerge. That what is ' free ', even in man, can be broken down 
into determinisms, is no proof that the world is not based on 



freedom — as indeed I maintain that it is. It is simply the result of 
ingenuity — a triumph of ingenuity — on the part of life. 
c. Lastly, for individual units, comes indifference. 

How often have artists, poets and even philosophers depicted 
nature as a blind Fury trampling existence in the dust ? 

Profusion is the first trace of this apparent brutality : like 
Tolstoy's grasshoppers, life passes over a bridge made up of 
accumulated corpses, and this is a direct effect of multiplication. 
But in the same ' inhuman ' direction orthogenesis and association 
also operate, in their fashion. 

By the phenomenon of association, the living particle is 
wrenched from itself. Caught up in an aggregate greater than 
itself, it becomes to some extent its slave. It no longer belongs to 

And what organic or social incorporation does to extend it in 
space, its accession to a line of descent achieves no less inexorably 
in time. By die force of orthogenesis the individual unit becomes 
part of a chain. From being a centre it is changed into being an 
intermediary, a link — no longer existing, but transmitting ; and, 
as it has been put, life is more real than lives. 

On the one hand the individual unit is lost in number, on the 
other it is torn apart in the collectivity, and in yet a third direction 
it stretches out in becoming. This dramatic and perpetual 
opposition between the one born of the many and the many 
constantly being born of the one runs right through evolution. 

As the general movement of life becomes regular, the conflict, 
despite occasional counter-attacks, tends to resolve itself. Yet it 
remains painfully noticeable to the end. The antinomy only 
clears up with the appearance of mind where it attains its paroxysm 
in feeling, and the indifference of the world for its constituents is 
transformed into an immense solicitude. This is the sphere of the 

But we have not yet come to that point. 
Groping profusion ; constructive ingenuity ; indifference 
towards whatever is not future and totality ; — these arc the three 
headings under which life rises up by virtue of its elementary 



mechanisms. There is also a fourth heading which embraces them 
all — that of global unity. 

This we have come across already — first in primordial matter, 
then on the early earth, then in the genesis of the fust cells. Here 
it reappears in a still more emphatic way. Though the prolifera- 
tions of living matter are vast and manifold, they never lose their 
solidarity. A continuous adjustment co-adapts them from with- 
out. A profound equilibrium gives them balance within. Taken 
in its totality, the living substance spread over the earth — from 
the very first stages of its evolution— traces the lineaments of one 
single and gigantic organism. 

I repeat this same thing like a refrain on every rung of the 
ladder that leads to man ; for, if this thing is forgotten, nothing 
can be understood. 

To see life properly we must never lose sight of the unity of 
the biosphere that lies beyond the plurality and essential rivalry of 
individual beings. This unity was still diffuse in the early stages 
— a unity in origin, framework and dispersed impetus rather than 
in ordered grouping ; yet a unity which, together with life's 
ascent, was to grow ever sharper in outline, to fold in upon itself, 
and, finally, to centre itself under our eyes. 


Now let us study, over the whole extent of the living earth, the 
various movements whose aspect we have analysed in the instance 
of cells or groups of cells taken in isolation. Seen on such a huge 
scale one might well expect the multitude to be entangled in 
utter confusion. Or, inversely, we might expect that their total, 
in the process of harmonising, should create a continuous wave 
like the radiating ripple from a stone in a pool. But what actually 
happens is a third alternative. As we see it under our very eyes 
today, the ' front ' of advancing life is neither chaotic nor con- 
tinuous. It is an aggregate of fragments at one and the same time 



divergent and arranged in tiers — classes, orders, families, genera, 
species. In other words what we see is the whole scale of groups 
whose variety, order of size and relationships our modern 
systematic biology tries to express in names. 

Considered as a whole, life's advances go hand in hand with 
segmentation. As life expands, it splits spontaneously into large, 
natural, hierarchical units. It ramifies. And the moment has come 
to study this ramification, a particular phenomenon as essential 
to large animate masses as mitotic division was to cells. 

A number of different factors contribute to drawing up or 
accentuating the branches of life. Again, I shall reduce them to 
three : a. Aggregates of growth, giving birth to ' phyla.' b. 
Florescence (or disjunctions) of maturity, periodically producing 
' verticils '. c. Effects of distance : the elimination (from view) 
of the ' peduncles '. 

A. Aggregates of Growth 

Let us return to the living element in the process of reproduction 
and multiplication. From this element, taken as centre, we have 
seen different lines radiating orthogenetically, each recognisable 
by the accentuation of certain characters. By their construction 
these lines diverge and tend to separate. Yet, so far, we have no 
reason to suppose that they may not meet with other lines 
radiating from neighbouring elements, become enmeshed with 
them and so form an impenetrable network. 

By ' aggregate of growth ' I mean the new and unexpected 
fact that a dispersion oj simple type occurs precisely where the play 
of chance would have made us most fear a complicated tangle. 
When poured out on the ground, a sheet of water quickly breaks 
up into streamlets and then into definite streams. Similarly, under 
the influence of various causes (such as the native parallelism of 
elementary orthogenesis, the attraction and mutual adjustment of 
lines, the selective influence of the environment and so on) the 
fibres of a living mass in the process of diversification tend to 
draw together, to bind, following a restricted number of domi- 



nant directions. In the beginning this concentration of forms 
round a few privileged axes is indistinct and indefinite ; it 
involves a mere increase, in certain sectors, of the number or 
density of the lines. Then gradually the movement takes shape. 
True nervures become visible, though without breaking up the 
limb of the leaf in which they appear. At this stage the fibres may 
still partially escape from the network which is trying to contain 
them. From nervure to nervure, they may still touch one another, 
anastomose, or cross one another. The zoologist would say that 
the group is still at the racial stage. And at this point there takes 
place what may be called the final aggregation or final separation 
(according to the point of view we take). For, having reached a 
certain degree of mutual cohesion, the lines isolate themselves in a 
closed sheaf that can no longer be penetrated by neighbouring 
sheaves. From now on, their association, the ' bundle ', will 
evolve on its own, autonomously. The species has become 
individualised. The phylum has been born. 

The phylum. The living ' bundle '; the line of lines. Many 
observers still refuse to see or admit the reality of this strand of 
life in the process of evolution. They do not know how to see, 
how to make the necessary adjustments in their vision. 

The phylum is first of all a collective reality. Therefore, to see 
it clearly, we need to look from a sufficient height and distance. 
Examined too closely, it crumbles into unevenness and confusion. 
We fail to see the wood for the trees. 

Secondly, the phylum is polymorphous and elastic. Like a 
molecule, which ranges through all sizes and degrees of complica- 
tion, it can be as small as a single species or as vast as a sub-king- 
dom. There are simple phyla and phyla composed of phyla. 
Phylctic unity is not so much quantitative as structural ; so we 
must be ready to recognise it on every scale of dimension. 

Lastly, the phylum has a dynamic nature. It only comes 
properly into view at a certain depth of duration, in other words 
only in movement. When immobilised in time, it loses its features 
and, as it were, its soul. Its morion is killed by a ' still '. 

Considered without these provisos, the phylum might well 



be thought to be just one more artificial entity carved for classifica- 
tion purposes out of the continuum of life. But looked at in 
proper magnification and light, it can be seen to be a perfectly 
defined structural reality. 

What defines the phylum in the first place is its ' initial angle 
of divergence ', that is to say the particular direction in which it 
groups itself and evolves as it separates off from neighbouring 

What defines it in the second place is its ' initial section '. 
About this point (already touched on when we were considering 
the first cells, and which will assume outstanding importance in 
the case of man) we are still very much in the dark. But at least 
one thing is certain at the outset. Just as it is physically impossible 
for a drop of water to condense save at a certain volume — or 
again, as it is impossible for a chemical reaction to take place 
unless a certain quantity of matter is present — the phylum cannot 
establish itself biologically unless, from the start, it has gathered 
up in itself a sufficient number and variety of potentialities. The 
lack of a certain initial modicum of consistency and richness (or 
the failure to break away at a sufficient angle) is enough to prevent 
a new branch from attaining individuality. The rule is strict. But 
how, in concrete terms, are we to express the ride and visualise 
its operation ? — in terms of a diffuse segregation of a mass within 
a mass, or as an effect of contagion propagating around a narrowly 
limited area of mutation ? What surface representation can we 
give to the birth of a species ? We are still hesitant and the 
question may perhaps involve a variety of answers. But we have 
gone a long way towards solving a problem once we are able to 
formulate it. 

Lastly what serves not only to define the phylum, but also to 
classify it without ambiguity as one of the natural units of the 
world, is ' its power and singular law of autonomous develop- 
ment '. If wc say that it behaves ' like a living thing ' this is no 
mere figure of speech ; in its own way it grows and flourishes. 



b. The Flourishing oj Maturity 

In virtue of analogies which correspond, as we shall discover 
later, to a deep bond of nature, the development of a phylum is 
strangely parallel to the successive stages undergone by an inven- 
tion made by men. We know those stages well from having 
seen them for about a century constantly around us. Roughly 
the idea first takes the shape of a theory or a provisional mechan- 
ism. Then follows a period of rapid modifications. The rough 
model is continually touched up and adjusted until it is practically 
completed. On the attainment of this stage, the new creation 
enters its phase of expansion and equilibrium. As regards quality 
it now only undergoes minor changes ; it has reached its ceiling. 
But quantitatively it spreads out and reaches full consistence. 
It is the same story with all modern inventions, from the bicycle 
to the aeroplane, from photography to the cinema and radio. 

In just this way the naturalist sees the curve of growth followed 
by the branches of life. At the outset the phylum corresponds to 
the ' discovery ', by groping, of a new type of organism that is 
both viable and advantageous. But this new type will not attain 
its most economical or efficient form all at once. For a certain 
period of time it devotes all its strength, so to speak, to groping 
about within itself. Try-out follows try-out, without being 
finally adopted. Then at last perfection comes within sight, and 
from that moment the rhythm of change slows down. The new 
invention, having reached the limit of its potentialities, enters its 
phase of conquest. Stronger now than its less perfected neigh- 
bours, the newly bom group spreads and at the same time con- 
solidates. It multiplies, but without further diversification. It 
has now entered its fully grown period and at the same time its 
period of stability. 

The flourishing of the phylum by simple dilatation or by the 
thickening of the initial stalk — except in the case of a branch that 
has reached the limits of its evolutionary power — this elementary 
procedure is never completely realised. However decisive and 



xiumphant the solution brought by the new form to the problems 
■aiscd by existence, it still admits of a certain number of variants. 
\nd because each of these variants brings its own particular 
idvantage, they have no power or reason to eliminate each other. 
That explains why, as it grows, the phylum tends to split up 
nto secondary phyla, each being a variant or ' harmonic ' of 
:he fundamental type. It splits up as it were along the whole 
iront of its expansion. It subdivides qualitatively at the same time 
is it spreads quantitatively. Disjunction starts again. Sometimes 
:he new subdivisions seem merely to correspond to superficial 
liversifications — they are effects of chance or of a playful inven- 
ive exuberance. But at other times they are precise adaptations 
)f the general type to particular needs or habitats. Hence the 
ays (' radiations ') that are clearly marked, as we shall see, in 
he case of the vertebrates. As is to be expected, the mech- 
mism tends to come into action again, in a more attenuated form, 
nside each ray. The rays, in their turn, show immediate signs of 
"arming out in fresh lines of segmentation. Theoretically there is 
10 end to this process. But in fact, as we know by experience, the 
phenomenon quickly begins to peter out. The process of fanning 
jut soon stops ; and the terminal dilatation of the branches goes 
m without any further appreciable splitting up. 

The final picture generally presented by a phylum in full 
jloom is that of a verticil of consolidated forms. 

And now — last touch to the whole phenomenon — we find 
it the heart of each clement of the verticil a profound inclination 
:owards socialisation. On the subject of socialisation I must 
repeat my general observations made above on the vital power of 
issociation. Since definite groupings of organised and diffcren- 
iated individuals or aggregates (ants, bees, mankind) are relatively 
:are in nature, we might be tempted to think of them as freaks of 
:volution. But this early impression soon gives way to the 
apposite conviction — that they exemplify one of the most 
:ssential laws of organised matter. Is it the last resort employed 
oy the living group to augment by mutual adherence its resis- 
:ance to destruction and its capacity for conquest ? Is it a useful 



means for increasing inner wealth by pooling resources ? What- 
ever the fundamental reason may be, the fact is there : once 
they have attained their definitive form at the end of each verti- 
cillate ray, the elements of a phylum tend to come together and 
form societies just as surely as the atoms of a solid body tend to 

Once it has achieved this last progress in consolidating and 
individualising the extremities of its ramification, the phylum 
can be said to have attained its full maturity. It will persist, from 
now on, until it is thinned out and then eliminated either by 
internal weakening or external competition. Then, except for the 
accidental survival of a few permanently fixed lines, its story has 
come to an end — unless by a process of self-fertilisation it starts 
somewhere or other shooting out a new bud. 

To understand the mechanism of this revivification, we must 
return once again to the idea or symbol of groping. As we have 
already seen, the formation of a verticil is explained in the first 
place by the phylum's need to pluralise itself in order to cope 
with a variety of different needs or possibilities. But since the 
number of stems is always on the increase, and since, moreover, 
each stem that splits up increases the number of individuals, 
' trials ' and ' experiments ' increase in number too. The fanning 
out of the phylum involves a forest of exploring antennae. And 
when one of these chances upon the fissure, the formula, giving 
access to a new compartment of life, then instead of becoming 
fixed or merely spreading out in monotonous variations, the 
branch finds all its mobility once more. It enters on mutation. 
Through the new opening, another pulsation of life surges, soon 
to divide in its turn into verticils under the influence of the 
combined forces of aggregation and disjunction. A new phylum 
appears, grows, and spreads out above tnc branch on which it 
was born though without necessarily stifling or exhausting it. 
And so the process continues. Perhaps a third branch germinates 
on the second, and yet a fourth on the third— always provided 
the branches are on the right path and the general equilibrium 
of the biosphere is favourable. 



c. Effects of Distance 

Thus, by the very rhythm of its development, each line of life 
follows a process of alternate contraction and expansion. It takes 
on the appearance of a series of knots and bidges, strung like 
beads, a sequence of narrow peduncles and spreading leaves. 

But this gives only a theoretical representation of what 
happens. For the process to be seen as it really is, we should 
require a terrestrial witness simultaneously present through the 
whole of duration, and the very idea is monstrous. In reality, the 
ascent of life can only be apprehended by us from the standpoint 
of a short instant, that is through an immense layer of lapsed 
time. What is granted to our experience and which subsequently 
constitutes the ' phenomenon ' is thus not the evolutionary 
movement in itself; it is this movement corrected according to 
its alteration by the effects of distance. How does this alteration 
show itself ? Quite simply through the accentuation (rapidly 
increasing with the distance) of the fan-structure deriving from 
the phyletic radiations of life. This happens, moreover, in two 
different ways ; first by exaggeration of the apparent dispersion 
of the phyla and subsequently by the apparent suppression of the 

Exaggeration of the apparent dispersion oj the phyla. This first 
optical illusion, affecting all observation, is due to the ageing and 
to the ' decimation ' of the living branches as a result of age. 
Only an infinitesimal number of the organisms that have grown 
successively on the tree of life exist for us to inspect today. And, 
despite all the efforts of palaeontology, many extinct forms will 
remain unknown to us for ever. As a result of this destruction, 
many gaps are continually forming in the ramifications of the 
animal and vegetable kingdom, and the farther back we go, the 
larger the gaps are. Dried up branches have broken off. Leaves 
have fallen. Many transitional forms have disappeared and their 
absence often makes the surviving lines of generation look gaunt 



and solitary. Duration, which with one hand multiplies its 
creations ahead, works no less diligently with the other hand 
thinning out the ranks in the rear. By so doing, it separates them 
off and isolates them more and more in our vision, while at the 
same time, by another and more subde process, it gives us the 
illusion of seeing them floating like clouds, rootless, over the 
abyss of past ages. 

Suppression of the peduncles. Since the heroic times of Lamarck 
and Darwin, the favourite argument employed against the trans- 
formists has always lain in pointing out their incapacity to prove 
the birth of a species in terms of material traces. ' Admittedly you 
show us,' say these objectors, ' a succession of varying forms in 
past ages, and we will even concede that you are able to demon- 
strate the transformation of those forms within certain limits. 
But however primitive it is, your first mammalian is already a 
mammal, your first equine already a horse, and so on all along 
the line. Accordingly, though there may well be evolution 
within a given type, we see no new type produced by evolution.' 
So the increasingly rare survivors of the ' fixed-type ' school 
still contend. 

Quite apart from all the arguments that can be based, as we 
shall see, on the continual accumulation of palaeontological 
evidence, there is a more weighty answer (a conclusive proof in 
fact) with which the ' fixed-type ' school's case can be rebutted. 
It consists in denying the initial assumption. What die anti- 
transformists are demanding is nothing less than that we should 
show them the ' peduncle ' of a phylum. But this demand is both 
poindess and unreasonable. To satisfy it we should have to 
change the very nature of the world and the conditions under 
which we perceive it. 

Nothing is so delicate and fugitive by its very nature as a 
beginning. As long as a zoological group is young, its characters 
remain indeterminate, its structure precarious and its dimensions 
scant. It is composed of relatively few individual units, and these 
change rapidly. In space as in duration, the peduncle (or, which 
comes to the same thing, the bud) of a living branch corresponds 



to a minimum of differentiation, expansion and resistance. What, 
then, will be the effect of time on this area of weakness ? 

Inevitably to destroy all vestiges of it. 

Beginnings have an irritating but essential fragility, and one 
that should be taken to heart by all who occupy themselves with 

It is the same in every domain : when anything really new 
begins to germinate around us, we cannot distinguish it — for the 
very good reason that it could only be recognised in the light of 
what it is going to be. Yet, if, when jt has reached full growth, 
we look back to find its starting point, we only find that the 
starting point itself is now hidden from our view, destroyed or 
forgotten. Close as they are to us, where are the first Greeks and 
Romans ? Where are the first shutdes, chariots or hearth-stones ? 
And where, even after the shortest lapse of time, are the first 
motor-cars, aeroplanes or cinemas ? In biology, in civilisation, in 
linguistics, as in all things, time, like a draughtsman with an 
eraser, rubs out every weak line in the drawing of life. By a 
mechanism whose detail in each individual case seems avoidable 
and accidental, but which, taken over a wide range, expresses a 
fundamental condition of our knowledge, embryos, peduncles 
and all early stages of growth fade and vanish as they recede into 
the past. Except for the fixed maxima, the consolidated achieve- 
ments, nothing, neither trace nor testimony, subsists of what has 
gone before. In other words, the terminal enlargements of the 
fans are only prolonged into the present by their survivors or 
their fossils. 

With that understood, there is nothing surprising in our 
finding, when we look back, that everything seems to have burst 
into the world ready made. 1 That which moves automatically 
tends to disappear from our view (by the selective absorption of 
1 If our machines (cars, planes, etc.) were swallowed up in some cataclysm 
and ' fossilised ', future geologists, finding them, would get the same im- 
pression as we get from the pterodactyl. Represented only by the latest makes, 
these products of our invention would seem to them to have been created 
without any previous evolutionary groping — completed and ' fixed ' at the 
first attempt. 



the ages) to become resolved into a discontinuous succession of 
levels and stabilities throughout the whole domain of what 
appears to us. 1 

The destructiveness of the past, superimposed on the con- 
structiveness of growth, enables us in the light of science to 
distinguish and make a diagram of the ramifications of the tree 
of life. 

Let us try to see it in its concrete reality, and to measure it. 

A. The Main Lines 

a. A Quantitative Unit of Evolution : the Layer of the Mammals. 
It follows directly from what has gone before that, to get a clear 
view of the tree of Life, we must ' make our eyes see ' that part of 
it only moderately affected by the corrosive action of time. Not 
too close, or the leaves will get in the way ; not too far, or the 
branches will lack detail. 

Where in nature today can we find such a privileged region ? 
Undoubtedly in that great family, the mammals. 

If mankind constitutes a group which is still ' immature ', the 
mammals form a group which is both adult and fresh. Geology 
provides us with positive evidence of this, and a simple inspection 
of the internal structure of the group is enough to prove it. Not 
reaching full florescence until the Tertiary era, their grouping 
stiU leaves visible an appreciable number of their most delicate 
appendices. That is why the kingdom of the mammals has long 
been and still is the happy hunting-ground for transformist ideas. 

1 I remark later (footnote p. 186) on the subject of monogenism ' on the 
non-fortuitous impossibility wc find ourselves in (for fortuitous reasons in 
every case — cf. Coumot) to get beyond a certain limit of precision (of separa- 
tion ') in our perception of the very distant past. In all directions (towards the 
very old and very small, but also towards the very big and very slow) our 
view is eventually blurred, and outside a certain radius we distinguish nothing 
at all. 




diagram i. The development oj the Tetrapods in Layers 
(Birds omitted). The figures on the left indicate millions 
of years. 


Diag. i shows us the main lines of the group. But let us begin 
by focussing our attention on the younger and more progressive 
branch of the mammals — die placentals. 1 

From an evolutionary (one could even say a ' physiological ') 
point of view, the placental mammals, taken in the mass, con- 
stitute what I shall speak of here as a biota. By this I mean a 
verticillate group whose elements are not only related by birth 
but are mutually auxiliary and complementary in the effort to 
subsist and multiply. 

To begin to understand this important point which the 
American school of palaeontology is fond of emphasising, we 
have only to observe in a suitable light the distribution of those 
animal forms with which we are all most familiar — the herbivores 
and the rodents who get their food directly from the vegetable 
kingdom, the insectivores similarly predatory on the arthropoda, 
the carnivores battening on both these groups, and the omnivores 
who dine at every table. Those are the four dominant radiations 
and they coincide substantially with die generally accepted 
classification of phyla. 

Let us now consider these four stems or sectors separately. 
They sub-divide, splitting up easily into subordinate units. Take 
for instance the richest of them at present — the herbivores. 
According to the two different ways in which the extremities of 
the limbs are transformed into feet for running (by the hyper- 
development of two fingers or the single median one), we see 
this group separating into two great families, the Artiodactyla 
and the Perissodactyla, each formed by a collection of large and 
distinct lineages. In the Perissodactyla we find the obscure 
crowd of tapirs, the short but astonishing branch of the Titano- 
theridae, the Chalicotheridae with digging claws which man 
in his early days may possibly have seen, the Rhinocerotidae 
horned and hornless, and lastly the solipedal Equidae, imitated 
in South America by a completely independent phylum. In 

1 So called in contrast to the a-placentals (marsupials, etc.) the embryo being 
nourished by a special organ, the placenta, which enables it to develop to 
maturity in the uterus. 



the Artiodactyla we find the Suidae, the Camelidac, the Cervidae 
and the Antilopidae — to say nothing of other less vigorous stems 
which are nevertheless as differentiated and as interesting to the 
palaeontologist. And we have not mentioned that abundant 
and robust group, the Proboscidia. Conforming to the rule 
of the 'suppression of the peduncles', the early history of 
each of these groups is lost in the mists of the past. But once 
they have appeared wc can follow each one of them through 
the principal phases of their geographical expansion ; also 
through their successive sub-divisions into sub-verticils which 
proceed almost indefinitely; and lastly by the exaggeration due 
to orthogenesis of certain skeletal characteristics, dental or cranial, 
which generally end up by making them monstrous or delicate. 

Nor is this all. For we can distinguish, superimposed on 
this florescence of genera and species issued from die four funda- 
mental radiations, another network corresponding to attempts 
made here, and there to abandon life on the ground and take to 
the air, the water, or even to an underground existence. Besides 
forms specialised for running there are arboreal and even flying 
forms, swimming forms, and burrowing forms. The Cetacea 
and Sirenia seem to have developed surprisingly quickly from 
the carnivores and the herbivores. Others (such as the chiroptera, 
moles and mole-rats) are derived from the oldest elements of the 
placental group, the insectivores and the rodents both dating 
from the end of the Secondary era. 

One has only to consider this elegantly balanced functional 
whole to be convinced that it represents an organic and natural 
grouping which is sui generis. This conviction gathers strength 
when we realise that it docs not correspond to an isolated except- 
ional case, but that similar units have periodically appeared in 
the course of the history of life. We only need mention two 
examples within the confines of the mammals. 

Geology teaches us that during the Tertiary era a fragment 
of the placental biota, then in full process of evolution, was cut 
off by the sea and imprisoned in the southern half of the American 
continent. Now how did this off-shoot react to its isolation ? 



Exactly like a plant — that is to say, it reproduced on a smaller 
scale the same design as the trunk from which it had been 
separated. It set to work to grow its pseudo-elephants, its pseudo- 
rodents, its pseudo-horses and its pseudo-monkeys (Platyrrhini). 
A complete biota in miniature, a sub-biota within the original 

And now for our second example, furnished by the mar- 

To judge by their relatively primitive method of reproduction 
and also by dieir present geographical distribution (in surviving 
pockets), the marsupials or a-placentals represent a peculiar 
stage at the base of the mammalian stem. They must have 
flourished before the placentals, forming a separate earlier biota 
of their own. On the whole, except for a few strange types (like 
that fossil pseudo-Machaerodus recendy found in Patagonia), 1 
this marsupial biota has disappeared without leaving a trace. 
On the other hand, one of its sub-biota accidentally developed 
and conserved in Australia before die Tertiary era and again 
through isolation, shows such sharpness of contour and perfection 
as still to make the naturalists marvel. At the time of its discovery 
by Europeans, Australia, as is well known, was inhabited only 
by marsupials. 2 They were of great variety, however, being of 
all shapes, sizes and habitats — herbivorous and cursorial mar- 
supials, carnivorous marsupials, insectivorous marsupials, mar- 
supial rats, marsupial moles, etc. It would be impossible to 
imagine a more striking example of the power inherent in every 
phylum to differentiate itself into a sort of closed and physio- 
logically complete organism. 

This grasped, let us now lift our eyes to the vast system 
enclodse by the two biota, the placentals and a-placentals, con- 
sidered together. Zoologists noticed at an early date that in all 
the forms composing these two groups, the molar teeth were 

1 Machaerodus or sabre-toothed tiger. Tliis big feline, common at the end 
of the Tertiary era and at the beginning of the Quaternary era, is strangely 
mimicked by the Pliocene carnivorous marsupial of South America. 

2 Except for a group of rodents and (the latest arrivals) man and his dog. 



essentially tritubercular, the projections of upper and lower teeth 
neady fitting beside each other ; an insignificant trait in itself, 
but intriguing because of its constancy. How explain the 
universality of such an accidental characteristic ? The key to 
the enigma has been provided by a discovery made in certain 
Jurassic beds in England. In the Middle Jurassic period, in a 
flash, we get a glimpse of a first pulsation of mammals — a 
world of small animals no bigger than rats or shrews. And in 
these tiny creatures, already extraordinarily varied, the dental 
type is not yet fixed, as it is in nature at the present day. Among 
them we can already find the tritubercular type ; but alongside 
it all sorts of other combinations may be observed in the develop- 
ment and opposition of molars and cusps. These other com- 
binations have been eliminated long since. From this only one 
conclusion can be drawn. With the possible exception of the 
Ornithorhynchus and the Echidna (paradoxical oviparous forms 
sometimes supposed to be a prolongation of the ' multi- 
tubercular ' type), existing mammals all derive from one narrow 
unique group. Taken all together they represent (in a state of 
florescence) but a single one of the many stems into which the Jurassic 
verticil of the mammals was divided — namely the tritubercular. 1 

At this point we have almost reached the limit of what the 
opacity of the past will allow us to see. Beneath this level, 
except for the probable existence right at the end of the Triassic 
period of yet another verticil to which the multitubercular type 
would seem to belong, the story of the mammals is lost to us. 

But at least we can say that towards die top and all round 
it, their group, naturally isolated by the rupture of its peduncle, 
stands out with sufficient sharpness and individuality for us to 
accept it as a practical unit of evolutionary mass '. 

Let us call this unit a layer. 

We shall be needing that unit at once. 
b. A Layer of Layers : the Tetrapods. When diey measure the 

1 Which might alternatively be called the ' scptem-vertcbraces ' since, by 
another coincidence which is equally unexpected and significant, all have 
seven cervical vertebrae whatever the length of the neck. 



distance of the nebulae, astronomers calculate in light years. If 
we, working back from the mammals, want to enlarge and 
prolong our vision of the tree of life downwards, we must 
calculate in layers. 

Let us begin with the layer of the reptiles of the Secondary era. 

When we lose sight of it below the Jurassic period, the mam- 
malian branch does not disappear into a sort of vacuum. Instead 
we find it enveloped and covered over by a thick living growth 
of an entirely different appearance : of Dinosaurians, Pterc- 
saurians, Ichthyosaurians, Crocodilia and many other monsters 
less familiar to the layman in palaeontology. Amongst these, 
the zoological distances between the various forms are consider- 
ably greater than between the various orders of mammals. Yet 
three characteristics strike us at once. Firstly, we are dealing 
with a ramifying system. Secondly, the ramifications are already 
far advanced or even nearing the end of their florescence. Thirdly, 
by and large, the whole group represents nothing else than an 
immense and perhaps complex biota. The herbivorous forms 
are often gigantic. Their satellites and enemies, the carnivores, 
are heavy or leaping types. Besides there are the flying types, 
with their bat-like membranes or their birds' feathers. Lasdy, 
swimming types, as streamlined as dolphins. 

In the distance this reptilian world seems to us more com- 
pressed than the mammalian, yet, judged by its expansion and 
its final complexity, it must be assumed to have lasted at least 
as long. Anyhow, it disappears into the depths in die same way. 
About the middle of the Triassic age, Dinosaurians can still be 
recognised ; but hardly emerging from another layer which 
itself is approaching its decline, diat of the Permian reptiles, best 
typified in the Theromorphs. 

Clumsy and deformed and rare in our museums, the Thero- 
morphs are much less popular than the Diplodocus or the 
Iguanodons. This does not prevent their taking a position of 
growing importance on the zoological horizon. At first regarded 
merely as freaks belonging exclusively to South Africa, they 
have now been definitively identified as the sole representatives 



of a complete and special stage in continental vertebrate life. 
At one moment, before the Dinosaurs, before the mammals, 
they were the creatures that occupied and possessed all land that 
was not covered by sea. Standing squarely on their strongly 
articulated limbs, and often provided with teeth of molar form, 
they might well be called the first quadrupeds to be firmly estab- 
lished on terra firma. In the age in which we become aware of 
their presence, we find them abounding in a strange variety of 
forms — horned, crested, armoured — indicating (as always) a 
group at the end of its evolutionary career. A rather mono- 
tonous group, as a matter of fact, under its superficial extrava- 
gances. One, moreover, which does not yet exhibit clearly the 
nervures of a true biota. It is nevertheless a fascinating group by 
virtue of die spread and the potentialities of its verticil. On the 
one hand there are the unchangeable tortoises, and at the other 
extreme, types which in their agility and cranial construction 
are very progressive. We have every reason to believe that 
it was among the latter that the long dormant shoot finally 
appeared which was to become the mammalian branch. 

Then another ' tunnel '. At these distances, the slices of 
duration are increasingly compressed under the weight of the 
past. When, at the lowest level of the Permian era and below it, 
we discern another surface of the inhabited earth, we find it now 
occupied only by amphibians crawling over the slime. The 
amphibians — a throng of squat or serpentine creatures among 
which it is often difficult to distinguish adult from larval forms ; 
skin glabrous or armoured ; vertebrae tubular or in a mosaic of 
tiny bones. Here again, following the general rule, we can only 
find an already highly differentiated world, almost coming to an 
end ; and there may well be many other layers that we confuse 
in this writhing mass, through sediments about whose thickness 
and immense duration we are still unclear. But one thing is sure. 
At this level we are witnessing the emergence of an animal 
group from the waters in which it was nourished and formed. 

And at this extreme beginning of their sub-aerial life, the 
vertebrates display a surprising characteristic which we must 



pause to consider. In every variety the skeletal formula is the 
same, particularly in the number and composition of the loco- 
motory limbs, to say nothing of the marvellous similarities of 
the cranial bones. What is the reason for this ? 

The fact that all amphibians, reptiles and mammals have four 
legs, and only four, might be explained in terms of mere con- 
vergence towards a particularly simple mode of locomotion 
(though the insects never have less than six legs). But how are 
we to justify in purely mechanical terms the complete similarity 
of structure in these four appendices ? In the anterior pair, the 
single humerus, then the two bones of the forearm and the five 
digits of the hand. Is not this, yet again, one of those accidental 
combinations which could only once have been discovered and 
accomplished ? If so, the conclusion already forced upon us in 
the case of the tritubercularity of mammals looms up again. 
Despite their extraordinary variety, terrestrial air-breathing 
animals can only represent variation superposed on a very special 
solution of life. 

Thus when we go back towards its origins, the immense and 
complicated ramification of the walking vertebrates folds back 
and closes in upon itself in a single stem. 

A single peduncle closes and defines at its base a layer of 
layers — the world of four-footcdness. 

c. The Branch oj the Vertebrates. In the case of mammals, we 
have been able to pick out the verticil from which the ' tri- 
tubercular stem shot off and isolated itself. Science has made 
less progress about the origin of the amphibians. We have no 
hesitation, however, in pointing to the only region of life in 
which four-footedness could have germinated amongst other 
tentative combinations. It must have done so somewhere among 
fish with lobed and ' limb-like ' fins whose layer, once wide- 
spread, is now represented only by a few ' living fossils ' — the 
Dipnoi (or lung-fishes) and, a very recent surprise, the ' Crosso- 
pterygian ', recently fished up in the southern seas. 

Made superficially ' homogenic ' by mechanical adaptation 
to swimming, the fish (it would be better to call them the Pisci- 



formes) are an assembly of monstrous complexity. We seem 
to find here more than anywhere numbers of layers accumulated 
and confused under the same heading. There are relatively 
young layers developing in the oceans at the very time when 
those of the four-footed were spreading over the continents. 
There are also ancient layers, still more numerous, ending up 
at a very low stage near the Silurian, at a fundamental verticil 
from which we see two principal stems diverging : Pisciformes 
with one nostril and no jaws, represented in nature today by the 
lamprey alone, and Pisciformes with jaws and two nostrils, 
from which all the rest have been derived. 

After what I have said above about the concatenation of 
terrestrial forms, I will no longer attempt to unearth and analyse 
this other world. I prefer to draw attention to a fact of a dif- 
ferent order which we meet here for the first time. The oldest 
fishes we know are for the most part strongly, even abnormally, 
scaly. 1 Under this first and apparently rather fruitless attempt 
at external consolidation was an internal skeleton still entirely 
cartilaginous. As we go back, the vertebrates appear less and less 
ossified internally. That is why we lose trace of them, no vestige 
remaining even in sediments that have come down to us intact. 
Now this is only a particular example of a general phenomenon 
of immense importance— whatever living group we take, it 
always ends by drowning itself in the depths of mollification. This 
is an infallible way of causing peduncles to vanish. 

Thus below the Devonian level the Pisciformes disappear 
into a sort of foetal or larval phase, incapable of fossilisation. 
Were it not for the accidental survival of the strange Amphioxus, 
we should have no idea of the multiple stages that the Chotdate 
type had to go through before being ready to fill the waters, 
pending its invasion of the land. 

So at the base a vast vacuum ends the story of that enormous 
edifice which includes all the quadrupeds and all the fishes, the 
branch oj the vertebrates. 

1 Without this ossified integument they would have left nothing behind 
them and we should never have known of them. 



d. The Remaining Branches of Life. With the vertebrate branch 
we have, within the biosphere, the greatest definite group known 
to systematic biology. Two other branches, and two only, 
besides the vertebrate, contribute to forming the main ramifi- 
cation of life — one consituted by the worms (Annelida) and 
arthropods, the other by the vegetable kingdom. The first 
consolidated by chitin or calcareous matter, the second by 
cellulose, they, too, succeeded in breaking out of their watery 
prison, to spread vigorously in the atmosphere. Indeed, in 
nature today, plants and insects are locked in a struggle with 
boned animals for the world's available space. 

It would be possible to analyse these two other branches as 
we have just analysed the vertebrates, but I think we can dis- 
pense with that. At the top we find the newer groups, rich in 
delicate verticils ; deeper, the layers with stems more firmly 
drawn but less well equipped ; and right at the base the fading- 
away into a world of unstable chemical forms. Thus we see 
the same general pattern of development ; but because in the 
latter case the branches are obviously older, there is greater com- 
plication and, in the instance of the insects, we observe extreme 
forms of socialisation. 

There seems no reason to doubt that in the abysses of time 
these various lines converge towards some common pole of 
dispersion. But long before we reach the junction of the Chor- 
dates, the Annelids and the plants (the junction of the first two 
being among the mctazoa, while their junction with the plants 
is much lower still and among the protozoa), their respective 
trunks vanish into a complex of extremely strange forms : 
Porifera, Echinodermata, Coelenterata. All tentative answers 
to the problem of life, a thicket of abortive branches. 

All this emerges beyond question (though we arc unable to 
say how, so wide is the breach of continuity caused by duration) 
from another world quite unbelievably old and multiform : 
infusoria, various protozoa and bacteria — free cells, naked or 
shelled in which the kingdoms of life, arc confused and which 
science is unable to classify. Applied to them, the words animal 



or vegetable lose all meaning. We are no longer able to deter- 
mine whether we are dealing with layers piled on layers and 
branches on branches, or a ' mycelium ' of confused fibres such 
as we find in a mushroom. Nor can wc say from what all this 
germinated. Below the Precambrian stage, the unicellular 
creatures too lose every kind of calcareous or siliceous skeletal 
form. And so the roots of the tree of life are lost to view in 
the unknowable world of soft tissue and the metamorphosis of 
primaeval slime. 

b. The Dimensions 

So we bring to a close our very sketchy diagram of the forms 
that have been observed and labelled by the patient labour of 
naturalists from Aristotle to Linnaeus and onwards. In the course 
of describing it, we have already tried to communicate the 
enormous complexity of the world we were attempting to 
resuscitate. It remains for us, by a final effort of vision and 
facing it as a whole, to realise more explicitly its prodigious 
dimensions. Of their own accord our minds always tend, not 
only to clarify (which is their function) but also to condense 
and abbreviate the realities they touch. They falter, over- 
burdened by the weight of distances and multitudes. So having 
sketched, for what it is worth, the expansion of life, it is incum- 
bent on us to restore to the elements of our diagram their true 
dimensions, in number, in volume and in duration. 

Let us now attempt this. 

First of all, in number, for the sake of simplicity our sketch 
of the animate world had to be made in bold strokes — families, 
orders, biota, layers, branches. But in dealing with these 
collective units, have we really even begun to imagine die multi- 
tudes that in fact we were dealing with ? Anyone who wishes 
to think in terms of evolution, or write about it, should start 
off by wandering through one of those great museums — there 
are four or five in the world — in which (at the cost of efforts 
whose heroism and spiritual value will one day be under- 



stood) a host of travellers has succeeded in concentrating in a 
handful of rooms the entire spectrum of life. There, without 
bothering about names, let him surrender himself to what he 
sees around him, and become impregnated by it : by the uni- 
verse of the insects whose ' reliable ' species are counted in tens 
of thousands ; by the molluscs, thousands more, inexhaustibly 
variegated in their marblings and their convolutions ; by the 
fishes, unexpected, capricious, and as prettily marked as butter- 
flies ; by the birds, hardly less extravagant, of every form, 
feather, and beak ; by the antelopes of every coat, carriage, and 
diadem. And so on, and so on. And for each word, which brings 
to our minds a dozen manageable forms, what multiplicity, what 
impetus, what effervescence ! And to think that all we sec are 
merely the survivors ! What would it be like if all the others 
were there too ? In every epoch of the earth, on every level 
of" evolution, other museums would have displayed the same 
teeming luxuriance. Added together, the hundreds of thousands 
of names in our catalogues do not amount to one millionth of 
the leaves that have sprouted so far on the tree of lile. 

Next, in volume. By this I mean : what is the relative import- 
ance, quantitatively, of the various zoological and botanical 
groups in nature ? What share belongs to each, materially, in 
the general assemblage of organised beings ? 

To give a rough idea of their proportion, I am reproducing 
here the very illuminating diagram in which a master in this 
field, M. Cu£not, has shown the principal departments of the 
animal kingdom, in the light of the most recent advances in 
science. This is a diagram of position rather than of structure, 
but it answers precisely the question 1 am asking. 

Looking at it, we may well receive an initial shock — the sort 
of shock we get when an astronomer speaks of our solar system 
as a simple star, of all our stars as a single Milky Way, and 
of our Milky Way as a mere atom among other galaxies. 
Mammals — does not that word normally sum up our idea of 
'animal ' ? Here it is, a poor little lobe, a belated offshoot on 
the tree of life. Around it, on the other hand, and beneath — 


diagram 2. The ' Tree of Life' after Cuenot. On litis 
diagram each principal lobe (or bunch) represents a grade ill 
least as important (morplwlogically and quantitatively) as 
that of the whole of the Mammalia taken together. Below 
the line AB, the forms are aquatic; above it they live on land. 


what a teeming rivalry of types, of whose existence, magnitude 
and multitude we have been unaware ! Mysterious creatures 
we may well have come upon, hopping among dead leaves or 
crawling over a beach, and upon which we may have bestowed 
an idle glance without pausing to wonder about their origin or 
significance— creatures negligible in size and today probably in 
number too. Here these despised forms come into their own. 
By the wealth of their modalities, by the length of time it took 
nature to produce them, they represent each of them a world 
as important as ours. Quantitatively— I emphasise the word— we 
are only one among these others, and the latest comers at that. 

Lastly, in duration. This is, as usual, the most difficult recon- 
struction for our imaginations. As I have said already, the 
different levels of the past are compressed and telescoped in our 
vision even more than the horizons of space. How are we to 
separate them out ? 

To put the depths of life into their true perspective, we had 
best return to what I have called above the layer of the mammals. 
Because this layer is relatively young, we have some idea of the 
time required for its development from the moment at the end of 
the Cretaceous period when it clearly emerges above the reptiles : 
the whole of the Tertiary era and a little more— some eighty 
million years. Let us now assume that, on a given zoological 
branch, the lateral layers strike off at regular intervals, as on 
the trunk of a pine-tree. So that their periods of maximum 
florescence (which alone are clearly registrable) follow one 
another in the case of the vertebrates at a distance of eighty 
million years apart. All we need to do to estimate the approxi- 
mate duration of a zoological interval is to count up the number 
of layers in it and multiply by 80,000,000. We have three layers, 
for instance, at the lowest estimate, between the mammals and 
the base of the tetrapods. The figures become imposing. But 
they taJly well enough with current geological ideas as to the 
immensity of the Triassic, Permian and Carboniferous ages. 

We can try to follow another method in a more approximate 
way from branch to branch. Within one and the same layer— 



such as the mammals, once again — we can apprehend vaguely 
the average structural divergence of types, a divergence which, 
as we have seen, took some eighty million years. Now compare 
the mammals, the insects and the higher plants ; unless (which 
is possible) the three branches at whose ends these three groups 
flourish did not strike off exactly from the same stem but shot 
up separately from a common ' mycelium '. What length of 
time was necessary to effect the gigantic divergence we see ? 
Here the zoologist's figures would seem as if tending to contradict 
the geologist's. Physicists, having measured the lead-content of 
a radiferous Precambrian mineral, are prepared to allow only 
fifteen hundred million years from the earliest sediment of 
carbon onwards. Must not the first organisms have existed long 
before these first vestiges ? Besides, if there is disagreement, 
which of the two time-measurements shall we trust to count 
the years of the earth ? The slow disintegration of radium or the 
slow aggregation of living matter ? 

If it takes five thousand years for a mere sequoia to reach 
its full growth (and no one yet has seen one die a natural death) 
what can be the total age of the tree of life ? 

c. The Evidence 

Now we can see the tree of life standing before us. A strange 
tree, no doubt. We could call it the negative of a tree, for 
contrary to what happens with our great forest trees, its branches 
and trunk arc revealed to our eyes only by ever-widening gaps ; 
an almost petrified tree, as it appears to us, so long do the buds take 
to open. Many that are half-opened now we shall never know 
in any other state. A clearly drawn tree, none the less, with its 
superimposed foliage of living species. In its main lines and 
vast dimensions, it stands there before us covering all the earth. 
Before attempting to probe the secret of its lite, let us take a 
good look at it. For, from a merely external contemplation of 
it, there is a lesson and a force to be drawn from it : the sense 
of its testimony. 



We still find here and there in the world people whose minds 
are suspicious and sceptical as regards evolution. Having only 
a book-knowledge of nature and naturalists these people imagine 
that the transformist battle is still carried on as in the days 
of Darwin. And because biologists continue to discuss the 
mechanisms by which species could have been formed, they 
imagine that biologists hesitate (or that they could hesitate 
without suicide) about the fact and reality of such a develop- 

But the real situation is quite otherwise. 

In the course of this chapter devoted to die concatenations 
of the organised world, the reader may have been surprised at 
my failing so far to mention the still lively quarrels over the 
distinction between the ' soma ' and the ' germplasin ', over the 
existence and function of ' genes ', over the transmission or 
non-transmission of acquired characters. The truth is that at 
the point I have reached in my inquiry, these questions do not 
concern me directly. To provide anthropogenesis with a natural 
framework and man with a cradle — to guarantee, 1 mean, the 
substantial objectivity ot an evolution — one thing, and one thing 
only, is necessary. Namely that the general phylogenesis of life 
(whatever the process and springboard of it may be) should be 
as clearly recognisable as the individual orthogenesis through 
which we see without the least astonishment every Living creature 

Now a quasi-mechanical proof of this global growth of the 
biosphere imposes itself inescapably on our nunds by the material 
pattern at which we inevitably end up with each new effort to 
fix, point by point, the contours and nervures of the organised 

No one would think of doubting the gyratory origin of the 
spiral nebulae, the progressive accretion of particles at the heart 
of a crystal or of a stalagmite or the concretion of the woody 
' bundles ' round the axis of a stalk. Certain geometrical dis- 
position, which seem to us perfecdy stable, arc the trace and 
irrefutable sign of kinematics. How could we hesitate even for 



a moment about the evolutionary origins of the layer of life 
on the earth ? 

Under our efforts at analysis life sheds its husk. It breaks 
down to an infinite degree into an anatomically and physio- 
logically coherent system of overlapping fans. 1 We find barely 
appreciable fans of sub-species and races ; larger ones of species 
and genera ; still larger ones of biota, then of layers, then of 
branches. And, to end with, the whole assemblage, animal and 
vegetable, forming by association one single gigantic biota, 
rooted perhaps, like a simple stem, in some verticil steeped in 
the depths of the mega-molecular world. Life would thus be 
a simple branch based on something else. 

From top to bottom, from the biggest to the smallest, one 
same visible structure whose design, reinforced by the very 
disposition of the shadows and voids, is accentuated and pro- 
longed (no hypothesis this!) by the quasi-spontaneous arrange- 
ment of the unforeseen elements brought forth by the day. 
Each newly-discovered form finds its natural place, though of 
course nothing within the framework is absolutely ' new '. 
What more do we need to be convinced that all this was bow, 
that all this has grown ? 

Thenceforward we can go on for years arguing about the way 
in which the enormous organism could have come into being. 
As we look closer at the bewildering complexity of the mechan- 
ism, our brains begin to reel. How arc we to reconcile this 
persistent growth with the determinism of the molecules, the 
blind play of the chromosomes, the apparent incapacity to 
transmit individual acquisitions by generation ? How, in other 
words, arc we to reconcile the external, ' finalist ' evolution of 

1 As regards these fans, it would ot course be possible to trace the connec- 
tions in another way, especially in giving more importance to the parallelisms 
and convergence. The tetrapods, tor example, could he regarded as a bundle 
composed ot several stems derived from dirlcrent verticils, each one having 
arrived similarly at the quadruped formula. Tliis polvphvletic scheme tits 
the facts less well, in mv opinion. In anv case its truth would not in the least 
affect my fundamental thesis, viz. that lite displays an organically articulated 
unity which manifestly indicates the phenomenon ol growth. 



phenotypes with the internal, mechanistic evolution of genotypes ? 
Though we take it apart, we still cannot understand how the 
machine works. This may well be, but the machine is mean- 
while standing in front of us ; and it works all the same. Be- 
cause chemistry is still floundering over the formation of granites, 
should we dispute the fact that the continents become more 
granitic year by year ? 

Like all things in a universe in which time is definitely estab- 
lished as a fourth dimension, life is, and only can be, a reality of 
evolutionary nature and dimension. Physically and historically 
it corresponds with a function X which determines the position 
of every living thing in space, in duration and in form. 

This is the fundamental fact which requires an explanation : 
but the evidence for it is henceforward above all verification, as 
well as being immune from any subsequent contradiction by 

At this degree of generalisation, it may be said that the 
problem of transformism no longer exists. The question is 
settled once and for all. To shake our belief now in the reality of 
biogenesis, it would be necessary to uproot the tree of life and 
undermine the entire structure of the world. 1 

1 As a matter of fact, in view of the impossibility of empirically perceiving 
any entity, animate or inanimate, otherwise than as engaged in the time-space 
series, evolutionary theory has long since ceased to be a hypothesis, to become 
a (dimensional) condition which all hypotheses of physics or biology must 
henceforth satisfy. Biologists and palaeontologists are still arguing today 
about the way things happen, and above ail about the mechanism of Life's 
transformations, and whether there is a preponderance of chance (the Neo- 
Darwinians) or of invention (the Nco-Lamarckians) in the emergence of new 
characters. But on the general and fundamental fact that organic evolution 
exists, applicable equally to life as a whole or to any given living creature in 
particular, all scientists are today in agreement for die very good reason that 
they couldn't practise science if they thought otherwise. The one regret wc 
might express here (and not without astonishment) is that despite the clearness 
of the facts, this unanimity does not go so far as to admit the 'galaxy ' of Living 
forms constitutes (as posited in these pages) a vast 'orthogenetic ' movement 
of involution on an ever-greater complexity and consciouness. But wc shall 
return to this at the conclusion of this book. 




Throughout the foregoing chapter we spoke of growth to 
express life's way of proceeding. We were even able to go 
some way towards recognising the principle behind this impetus 
which seemed to us Linked up with the phenomenon of controlled 
additivity. By a continuous accumulation of properties (whatever 
the exact hereditary mechanism involved) life acts like a snow- 
ball. It piles characters upon characters in its protoplasm. It 
becomes more and more complex. But, taken as a whole, what 
is the meaning of this movement of expansion ? Is it like the 
confined and functional explosion of the internal combustion 
engine ? Or is it a disorderly release of energy in all directions 
like the blast of a high explosive ? 

That there is an evolution of one sort or another is now, as 
I have said, common ground among scientists. Whether or not 
that evolution is directed is another question. Asked whether 
life is going anywhere at the end of its transformations, nine 
biologists out of ten will today say no, even passionately. They 
will say : ' It is abundantly clear to every eye that organic matter 
is in a state of continual metamorphosis, and even that this 
metamorphosis brings it with time towards more and more 
improbable forms. But what scale can we find to assess the 
absolute or even relative value of these fragile constructions ? 
By what right, for instance, can we say that a mammal, or even 
man, is more advanced, more perfect, than a bee or a rose ? To 
some extent we can arrange beings in increasingly wide circles 
according to the distance in time which separates them from the 



initial ceil. But, once a certain degree of differentiation has been 
reached, we can no longer find any scientific grounds for pre- 
ferring one of these laborious products of nature to another. 
They are different solutions — but each equivalent to the next. 
One spoke of the wheel is as good as any other ; no one of the 
lines appears to lead anywhere in particular.' 

Science in its development — and even, as I shall show, man- 
kind in its march — is marking time at this moment, because 
men's minds are reluctant to recognise that evolution has a 
precise orientation and a privileged axis. Weakened by this 
fundamental doubt, the forces of research are scattered, and there 
is no determination to build the earth. 

Leaving aside all anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism, 
I believe I can see a direction and a line of progress for life, a 
line and a direction which are in fact so well marked that I am 
convinced their reality will be universally admitted by the 
science of tomorrow. And I want here to make the reader 
understand why. 


To begin with, as we are dealing here with degrees of organic 
complication, let us try to find an order in the complexity. 

Contemplated without any guiding thread, it must be 
recognised that the host of living creatures forms qualitatively 
an inextricable labyrinth. What is happening, where are we 
going through this monotonous succession of ramifications ? 
In the course of ages, doubdess, creatures acquire more organs 
of increased sensibility. But they also reduce them by specialisa- 
tion. Besides, what is the real meaning of the term ' complica- 
tion ' ? There are so many different ways in which an animal 
can become less simple — differentiation of limbs, of tissues, of 
sensory organs, of integument. According to the point of view 
adopted, all sorts of distributions are possible. In these multiple 
combinations, is there really one which can be said to be truer 



than the others ? Is there one, that is to say, which gives to the 
whole of living things a more satisfying coherence, either in 
relation to itself, or in relation to the world to which life finds 
itself committed ? 

To answer this question, I think wc had better go back to 
what I said above about the mutual relations between the 
without and the within of things. The essence of the real, I said, 
could well be represented by the ' inferiority ' contained by the 
universe at a given moment. In that case evolution would 
fundamentally be nothing else than the continual growth of 
this ' psychic ' or ' radial ' energy, in the course of duration, 
beneath and within the mechanical energy I called ' tangential ', 
which is practically constant on the scale of our observations 
(Book 1, Chapter 2, 3 Spiritual Energy, Section B). And what, 
I asked, is the particular co-efficient which empirically expresses 
the relationship between the radial and tangential energies of 
the world in the course of their respective developments ? Obvi- 
ously arrangement, the arrangement whose successive advances 
are inwardly reinforced, as we can see, by a continual expansion 
and deepening of consciousness. 

Let us turn this proposition round (not in a vicious circle, 
but by a simple adjustment of perspective). Among the in- 
numerable complications undergone by organic matter in 
ebullience, we find it hard to distinguish those which are merely 
superficial diversifications and those (if any) which would repre- 
sent a renewal and re-grouping of the stuff of the universe. 
Well then, let us just try to see whether, amongst all the com- 
binations tried out by life, some are not organically associated 
with a positive variation in the psychism of those beings which 
possess it. If so, let us seize on them and follow them ; for, if 
my hypothesis be correct, they are undoubtedly the ones which, 
among the equivocal mass of insignificant transformations, repre- 
sent the very essence of complexity, of essential metamorphosis. 
There is every chance that they will lead us somewhere. 

Framed in these terms, the problem is immediately solved. 
Of course there exists in living organisms a selective mechanism 



for the play of consciousness. We have merely to look into 
ourselves to perceive it— the nervous system. We are in a 
positive way aware of one single ' inferiority ' in the world : 
our own directly, and at the same time that of other men by 
immediate equivalence, thanks to language. But we have every 
reason to think that in animals too a certain inwardness exists, 
approximately proportional to the development of their brains. 
So let us attempt to classify living beings by their degree of 
' cerebralisation '. What happens ? An order appears— the very 
order we wanted — and automatically. 

To begin with, let us turn to that part of the tree of life wc 
know best, partly because it is still full of vitality and partly 
because we belong to it ourselves— the Chordate branch. In 
this group an outstanding characteristic is apparent, one which 
has for long been emphasised in palaeontology. It is that we find 
from layer to layer, by massive leaps, the nervous system con- 
tinually developing and concentrating. We all know the example 
of the enormous Dinosaurs whose absurdly small brain was no 
more than a narrow string of lobes considerably smaller in 
diameter than the spinal chord in the lumbar region, reminding 
us of the state of affairs still lower, in the amphibians and the 

fishes. But when we pass to the stage above — the mammals 

we see a remarkable change. 

Among the mammals, that is to say, this time, within a single 
layer, the average brain is much more voluminous and convoluted 
than in any other group of vertebrates. Yet, when we look 
closer, we see not only many inequalities, but a remarkable order 
in their distribution. The gradation in the first place follows the 
position of the biota. In nature at the present day the placentals 
take precedence in the matter of brain over the marsupials. Next, 
within the same biotas, we find a gradation according to age. 
We see placental brains (except for a few primates) always 
relatively smaller and simpler in the lower Tertiary age than in 
the Miocene and Pliocene. This is strongly emphasised by extinct 
phyla such as the Condylarthra or Dinocerata, those horned 
monsters whose brain-case (in size and the spacing of the lobes) 



had hardly advanced beyond that of the Secondary reptiles. 
This can also be observed within a single line of descent. In the 
Eocene carnivores, for instance, the cerebrum, still in the marsupial 
stage, is smooth and well separated from the cerebellum. It 
would be easy to add to the list. In general it may be said that, 
taking any offshoot from any verticil, it is only rarely that we 
find that (provided it is long enough) it does not lead in time to 
more and more ' cerebralised ' forms. 

Taking another branch, the arthropods and the insects, we 
find the same phenomenon. Dealing as we are now with another 
sort of consciousness, we are less sure of our values, but the 
thread which guides still seems to hold. From group to group 
and age to age, these forms, psychologically so far removed, 
display, like ourselves, the influence of cerebralisation. The 
nerve ganglions concentrate ; they become localised and grow 
forward in the head. At the same time instincts become more 
complex ; and simultaneously the extraordinary phenomena of 
socialisation appear, to which we shall have to return. 

We could continue this analysis indefinitely. I have said 
enough, however, to show how easily the skein is disentangled 
once we have found the end. For obvious reasons of con- 
venience, naturalists setting out to classify organic forms have 
been led to make use of certain variations of ornament, for 
instance, or functional modifications of the skeleton. Guided by 
orthogenesis affecting the coloration and nervation of wings, 
the disposition of limbs, or the shape of teeth, their classification 
sorts out the fragments or even the skeleton of a structure in the 
living world. But because the lines thus traced correspond only 
to the secondary harmonics of evolution, the system as a whole 
has neither shape nor movement. On the other hand, from the 
moment that the measure (or parameter) of the evolving pheno- 
menon is sought in the elaboration of the nervous systems, not 
only do the countless genera and species fall naturally into place, 
but the entire network of their verticils, their layers, dieir 
branches, rises up like a quivering spray of foliage. Not only 
does the arrangement of animal forms according to their degree 

145 K 


of cerebralisation correspond exactly to the classification of 
systematic biology, but it also confers on the tree of life a sharp- 
ness of feature, an impetus, which is incontcstably the hall-mark 
of truth. Such coherence — and, let me add, such case, inexhaust- 
ible fidelity and evocative power in this coherence — could not 
be the result of chance. 

Among the infinite modalities in which the complication of 
life is dispersed, the differentiation of nervous tissue stands out, 
as theory would lead us to expect, as a significant transformation. 
It provides a direction ; and therefore it proves that evolution has a 

That is my first conclusion. But it has its corollary. We 
began by saying that, among living creatures, the brain was 
the sign and measure of consciousness. We have now added 
that, among living creatures, the brain is continually perfecting 
itself with time, so much so that a given quality of brain appears 
essentially linked with a given phase of duration. 

The final conclusion proclaims itself, a conclusion which at 
one and the same time confirms the bases and controls what 
follows in our disquisition. Since, in its totality and throughout 
the length of each stem, the natural history of living creatures 
amounts on the exterior to the gradual establishment of a vast 
nervous system, it therefore corresponds on the interior to the 
installation of a psychic state coextensive with the earth. On 
the surface, we find the nerve fibres and ganglions ; deep down, 
consciousness. We were only looking for a simple rule to sort 
out the tangle of appearances. And now (entirely in keeping 
with our initial anticipations on the ultimately psychic nature of 
evolution) we possess a fundamental variable capable of following 
in the past, and perhaps defining in the future, the true curve 
of the phenomenon. 

Will that solve the problem ? Yes, almost. But on one con- 
dition, obviously ; a condition which will seem irksome to 
certain scientific prejudice. It is that by a change of front, a 
reversal of plane, we abandon the without to delve into the 
within of things. 




Let us return to the ' expansionist ' movement of life as it appears 
in its broad outline. But this time, instead of losing ourselves 
in the labyrinth of arrangements affecting the ' tangential ' 
energies of the world, let us try to follow the ' radial ' progress 
of its internal energies. Now everything becomes definitively 
clear — in value, in operation and in hope. 

a. To begin with, what is brought to light by this simple change 
of variable is the place occupied by the development of life in the 
general history of our planet. 

When we discussed the origin of the first cells, we considered 
that, if their spontaneous generation took place only once in the 
whole of time, it was apparently because the initial formation 
of the protoplasm was bound up with a state which the general 
chemistry of the earth passed through only once. The earth, we 
said, should be regarded as the seat of a certain global and irre- 
versible evolution, much more important for scientists to con- 
sider than any superficial oscillations. We said, moreover, that 
the primordial emergence of organised matter marked a critical 
point on the curve of this evolution. 

After that the phenomenon seemed to become lost in the 
multitude of ramifications, to the point that we almost forgot it. 
But now we sec it emerging again, on the tide, with the ride 
(duly recorded by the nervous systems), whose flood carries the 
ving mass ever onward towards more consciousness. This is the 
great primaeval movement reappearing, whose sequel we now 

Like the geologist occupied in recording the movements of 
the earth, the faultings and foldings, the palaeontologist who 
fixes the position of the animal forms in time is apt to sec in the 
past nothing but a monotonous series of homogeneous pulsations. 
In these records, the mammals succeeded the reptiles which 
succeeded the amphibians, just as the Alps replaced the Cimmerian 
Mountains which had in their turn replaced the Hercynian range. 



Henceforward we can and must break away from this view which 
lacks depth. We have no longer the crawling ' sine ' curve, but 
the spiral which springs upward as it turns. From one zoological 
layer to another, something is carried over: it grows, jerkily, but 
ceaselessly and in a constant direction. And this ' something ' is 
what is most physically essential in the planet we live on. The 
evolution of the simple bodies following the radio-active way, 
the granitic segregation of continents, the possible isolation of the 
interior layers of the globe many other transformations besides 
the vital movement form no doubt a continuous bass underlying 
the rhythms of the earth ; but since life separated out within the 
heart of matter, these various processes have no longer the quality 
or being the supreme event. With the birth of the first albumin- 
oids, the essence of the terrestrial phenomenon shifted in a decisive 
way to become concentrated in that seemingly negligible thick- 
ness, the biosphere. The axis of geogenesis is now extended in 
biogenesis, which in the end will express itself in psychogenesis. 

From an inward point of view, constantly confirmed by 
ever-increasing harmonies, the different objects of science become 
visible in proper perspective and in their true proportions. We 
see life at the head, with all physics subordinate to it. And at 
the heart of life, explaining its progression, the impetus of a rise 
of consciousness. 

b. The Impetus of Life. This is a question hotly debated by 
naturalists ever since die understanding of nature has been hinged 
on the understanding of evolution. Faithful to their analytical 
and determinist methods, biolgists persist in looking for the 
principle of vita, developments in external stimuli or in statistics: 
the struggle for survival, natural selection and so on. From this 
point of view, the animate world could never advance — if it 
advanced at all — otherwise than by the automatically regulated 
sum of all the efforts it makes to remain itself. 

Far be it from mc, let me say once again, to deny the im- 
portant, indeed essential, role, played by this historic working 
of the material forms. As living beings, we feel it in ourselves. 
To jolt the individual out of his natural laziness and the rut of 



habit, and also from time to time to break up the collective 
frameworks in which he is imprisoned, it is indispensable that he 
should be shaken and prodded from outside. What would we do 
without our enemies ? While capable of supply regulating within 
organic bodies the blind movement of molecules, life seems still 
to exploit for its creative arrangements the vast reactions which 
are born fortuitously throughout the world between material 
currents and animate masses. Life seems to play as cleverly with 
collectivities and events as with atoms. But what could this 
ingeniousness and these stimulants do if applied to a funda- 
mental inertia ? And what, moreover, as we have pointed out, 
would the mechanical energies themselves be without some 
within to feed them ? Beneath the ' tangential ' we find the 
' radial '. The impetus of the world, glimpsed in the great 
drive of consciousness, can only have its ultimate source in some 
inner principle, which alone could explain its irreversible advance 
towards higher psychisms. 

How can life respect determinism on the without and yet 
act in freedom within ? Perhaps we shall understand that better 
some day. 

Meanwhile the vital phenomenon seems on the whole both 
natural and possible when once the reality of a fundamental 
impetus has been accepted. Furthermore, its micro-structure 
itself becomes clearer. For we now perceive a new way of 
explaining, over and above the main stream of biological evolu- 
tion, the progress and particular disposition of its various phyla. 1 

1 In various quarters I shall be accused of showing too Lamarckian a bent in 
the explanations which follow, of giving an exaggerated influence to the 
Within in the organic arrangement of bodies. But be pleased to remember that, 
in the ' morphogenctic ' action of instinct as here understood, an essential part 
is left to the Darwinian play of external forces and to chance. It is only really 
through strokes of chance that life proceeds, but strokes of chance which are 
recognised and grasped — that is to say, psychically selected. Properly under- 
stood the ' anti-chance ' of the Neo-Lamarckian is not the mere negation of 
Darwinian chance. On the contrary it appears as its utilisation. There is a 
functional complementariness between the two factors ; we could call it 
' symbiosis '. 



It is one tiling to notice that in a given line in the animal kingdom 
limbs become solipedal or teeth carnivorous, and quite another 
to guess how this tendency was produced. It is all very well to 
say that a mutation occurs at the point where the stem leaves the 
verticil. But what then ? The later modifications of the phylum 
are as a rule so gradual, and so stable are sometimes the organs 
affected, even from the embryo (the teeth, for example), that 
we are definitely forced to abandon the idea of explaining every 
case simply as the survival of the fittest, or as a mechanical 
adaptation to environment and us. So what follows ? 

The more often I come across this problem and the longer 
I pore over it, the more firmly is it impressed upon me that in 
fact we are confronted with an effect not of external forces but 
of psychology. According to current thought, an animal develops 
its carnivorous instincts because its molars become cutting and 
its claws sharp. Should we not turn the proposition around ? 
In other words if the tiger elongates its fangs and sharpens its 
claws is it not rather because, following its line of descent, it 
receives, develops and hands on the ' soul of a carnivore ' ? It 
is the same with the timid cursorial types, the same with those 
that burrow, swim or fly. There is an evolution of characters 
certainly ; but on condition that this word is taken in the 
sense of ' temperament '. At first sight the explanation reminds 
one of the ' virtues ' of the Schoolmen. As wc go deeper, it 
becomes increasingly likely. In the individual, qualities and 
defects develop with age. Why (or rather, how) should they 

It may be added that if wc give its proper place to the essential distinction 
(still too often ignored) between a biology of small units and a biology of big 
complexes— in the same way as there is a physics of the infinitesimal and another 
of the immense— wc appreciate the advisability of distinguishing two major 
zones of the organic world, and treating them differently. On the one hand is 
the Lamarckian zone of very big complexes (above all, man) in which anti- 
chance can be seen to dominate ; on the other hand the Darwinian zone of 
small complexes, lower forms of life, m which anti-chance is so swamped by 
chance that it can onjy be appreciated by reasoning and conjecture, that is to 
say indirectly. (Sec p. 302.) 



not be accentuated phylctically ? And why, on that scale, should 
they not react upon the organism to stamp it with their image ? 
After all the ants and termites succeed in fitting out their warriors 
and their workers with an exterior suited to their instincts. 
And we also surely know men of prey ? 

c. Once we have admitted this, unexpected horizons rise up in 
front of biology. For obvious practical reasons we are led to 
make use of the variations in their fossihsablc parts to follow the 
links between living creatures. But this practical necessity must 
not be allowed to blind us to what is limited and superficial 
in this arrangement. The number of bones, shape of teeth, 
ornamentation of the integument — all these ' visible characters ' 
form merely the outward garment round something deeper 
which supports it. We arc dealing with only one event, the 
grand orthogenesis of everything living towards a higher degree 
of immanent spontaneity. Secondarily, we find by periodical 
dispersal of this impetus, the verticil of the little orthogeneses, 
where the fundamental current splits up to form the true, inner 
axis of each ' radiation '. Finally, thrown over all that like a 
simple sheath, we iind the veil of tissues and the architecture of 
the limbs. That is the situation. 

To write the true natural history of the world, we should 
need to be able to follow it from within. It would thus appear 
no longer as an interlocking succession of structural types re- 
placing one another, but as an ascension of inner sap spreading 
out in a forest of consolidated instincts. Right at its base, the 
living world is constituted by consciousness clothed in flesh 
and bone. From the biosphere to the species is nothing but an im- 
mense ramification of psychism seeking for itself through 
different forms. That is where Ariadne's thread leads us if we 
follow it to the end. 

In the present state of our knowledge, of course, we cannot 
dream of expressing the mechanism of evolution in this ' interior- 
ised ', ' radial ' form. On the other hand, one thing becomes 
clear. It is that, if this is the real significance of transformisni, 
life, in so far as it represents a controlled process, could only proceed 



ever farther along its original line on condition that it underwent 
some profound readjustment at a given moment. 

The law is formal. We referred to it before, when we spoke 
of the birth of life. No reality in the world can go on increasing 
without sooner or later reaching a critical point involving some 
change of state. There is a ceiling limit to speeds and tempera- 
tures. If we increase the acceleration of a body until we get 
near the speed of light, it acquires by excess of mass an infinitely 
inert nature. If we heat it, it would first melt, then vaporise. 
And the same applies to all known physical properties. So long 
as we could regard evolution as a simple advance towards com- 
plexity, we could imagine it developing indefinitely in its own 
likeness ; there is no ceiling limit to pure diversification. Now 
that, beneath the historically increasing intricacy of forms and 
organs, we have discovered the irreversible increase, not only 
in quantity but also in quality, of brains (and therefore conscious- 
ness) we are forced to realise that an event of another order — 
a metamorphosis — was inevitably awaited to wind up this long 
period of synthesis in the course of geological time. 

We must now turn our attention to the first symptoms of 
this great terrestrial phenomenon which ends up in man. 


Let us return to the wave of life in movement where we left it, 
i.e. at the expansion of the mammals or, to situate ourselves 
concretely in duration, let us go back to the world as we can 
imagine it towards the end of the Tertiary period. 

A great calm seems to be reigning on the surface of the earth 
at this time. From South Africa to South America, across 
Europe and Asia, are fertile steppes and dense forests. Then 
other steppes and other forests. And amongst this endless verdure 
are myriads of antelopes and zebras, a variety of proboscidians 
in herds, deer with every kind of antler, tigers, wolves, foxes 
and badgers, all similar to those we have today. In short, the 



landscape is not too dissimilar from that which we are today 
seeking to preserve in National Parks — on the Zambesi, in the 
Congo, or in Arizona. Except for a few lingering archaic forms, 
so familiar is this scene that we have to make an effort to realise 
that nowhere is there so much as a wisp of smoke rising from 
camp or village. 

It is a period of calm profusion. The mammalian layer has 
spread out. Yet evolution cannot be stopped. Something, some- 
where, is unquestionably accumulating and ready to rise up for 
another forward leap. But what ? and where ? 

To detect what at this moment is maturing in the womb of 
the universal mother, let us make use of the index which we 
have henceforward at our disposal. Life is the rise of conscious- 
ness, we have agreed. If it is to progress still further it can only 
be because, here and there, the internal energy is secretly rising 
up under the mantle of the flowering earth. Here and there, 
within nervous systems, psychic tension is doubtless increasing. 
Physicists and doctors use delicate instruments on bodies : 
let us do likewise, applying our ' thermometer ' of consciousness 
to this somnolent nature. In what region of the biosphere in the 
Pliocene period is there a sign of rising temperature ? 

Of course we must look at heads. 

Outside the vegetable kingdom, which does not count, 1 there 
are two summits of branches, and only two, which emerge 
before us in air, light and spontaneity : on the arthropod side, 
the insects ; on the vertebrate side, the mammals. To which 
side belongs the future — and truth ? 

a. The Insects. In trie higher insects a cephalic concentration of 
nerve ganglions goes hand in hand with an extraordinary wealth 

1 In the sense that in the vegetable kingdom we are unable to follow along a 
nervous system the evolution of a psychism obviously remaining diffuse. 
That is not to say that the latter does not exist, growing in its own manner. 
I would not think of denying it. Indeed, to take one example out of a thousand, 
is it not enough to see how certain plants trap insects to be convinced that the 
vegetable branch, albeit from afar, is like the other two, subservient to the rise 
of consciousness. 



and precision of behaviour. Wc cannot but wonder when wc 
see living around us this world so marvellously adjusted and yet 
so terribly far away. Our rivals ? Our successors, perhaps ? 
Must we not rather say a multitude pathetically involved and 
struggling in a blind alley ? 

What seems to eliminate the hypothesis that the insects 
represent the issue — or even that they simply are an issue — for 
evolution is the fact that although very much the elders of the 
higher vertebrates by the date of their florescence, and now they 
seem irremediably ' stationary \ Throughout what may well be 
geological ages, they have become endlessly complicated like 
Chinese characters, yet give the impression of being unable to 
change their plan — as if their impetus or fundamental meta- 
morphosis were stopped. And if we reflect a moment, wc can 
see certain reasons for this marking-time. 

First of all insects are too small. For quantitative develop- 
ment of the organs, an external, chitinous skeleton is a bad solu- 
tion. In spite of repeated moultings it imprisons the organs : 
and it quickly yields under increasing interior volumes. The 
insect cannot grow beyond an inch or two without becoming 
dangerously fragile. In spite of the disdain with which we some- 
times regard ' a mere question of size ', it is undeniable that 
certain qualities, by the very fact that they are linked to a material 
synthesis, are only capable of being manifested above certain 
quantities. The superior psychic levels demand physically big 

And then, precisely perhaps for this very reason of size, 
insects show a strange psychic inferiority in the very domain 
where we should have been tempted to put their superiority. 
Our own cleverness is dumbfounded by the precision of their 
movements and their constructions. But we must be careful. 
Looked at more closely, this perfection is conditioned by the 
extreme rapidity with which their psychology becomes mechan- 
ised and hardened. It has been amply demonstrated that the 
insect disposes of an appreciable margin of indetermination and 
choice for its operations. Only, hardly are these performed, 



than its acts seem to become charged with habit and soon trans- 
formed into organic reflexes. Automatically and continually, 
one could say, its consciousness is extravcrted to become frozen 
at once : (i) in its behaviour, which successive corrections 
promptly registered render ever more precise and (ii) in the long 
run, in a somatic morphology in which individual particularities 
disappear, absorbed by function. Hence those adjustments of 
organs and behaviour at which Fabre rightly marvelled, and 
hence also the simply prodigious arrangements which group 
together in a single living machine the swarming hive or ant-hill. 

This could be called a paroxysm of consciousness, which 
spreads outwards from within, to become materialised in rigid 
arrangements. The exact opposite of a concentration. 
b. The Mammals. Let us therefore leave the insects and return 
to the mammals. 

At once we feel at ease ; so much at ease that our relief could 
be accounted for by an impression of ' anthropoccntrism '. 
If we breathe more freely now that we have come away from 
the hive and ant-hill, is it not quite simply because, amongst 
the higher vertebrates, we feel ' at home ' ? There is always the 
menace of relativity hanging over our minds. 

No, we are not making a mistake. In this case at least we 
are not misled by an impression — our judgment is really being 
guided by our intelligence, with the power it has to appreciate 
certain absolute values. If a furry quadruped seems so ' animated ' 
compared with an ant, so genuinely alive, it is not only because 
of a zoological kinship we have with it. In the behaviour of a 
cat, a dog, a dolphin, there is such suppleness, such unexpected- 
ness, such exuberance of life and curiosity ! Instinct is no longer 
narrowly canalised, as in the spider or the bee, paralysed in a 
single function. Individually and socially it remains flexible. It 
takes interest, it flutters, it plays. We are dealing with an entirely 
different form of instinct in fact, and one not subject to the limita- 
tions imposed upon the tool by the precision it has attained. Unlike 
the insect, the mammal is no longer completely the slave of the 
phylum it belongs to. Around it an ' aura ' of freedom begins 






.J. S Z A\ - ~ 

diagram 3. The development of the Primates. 


to float, a glimmer of personality. And it is in that direction that 
the possibilities presently crop up, intcrminate and interminable, 
straight ahead. 

But from what species was it that the leap forward towards 
promised horizons was to take place ? 

Let us take a closer look at the great horde of Pliocene animals 
— those limbs developed to the last degree of simplicity and 
perfection, those forests of antlers on the heads of stags, of lyre- 
shaped horns on the starred or striped foreheads of antelopes, 
those heavy tusks on the snouts of the proboscidians, those 
canines and incisors of the great carnivores . . . Surely such 
luxuriance, such achievement, must precisely serve to condemn 
the future of these magnificent creatures, marking them for an 
early death, writing them off — despite their psychic vitality — 
as forms that have got into a morphological dead end. All this 
may seem rather more like an end than a beginning. 

This is doubtless so. But besides the Polycladida, the Strep- 
sicerata, the elephants, the sabre-toothed tigers, and so many 
others, there are the primates. 

c. The Primates. So far I have only mentioned the primates 
once or twice in passing. I have not yet allotted a place to these 
near neighbours of ours on the tree of life. The omission was 
deliberavC. At the point I had then reached, their importance 
had not yet come to light ; they could not have been understood. 
Now that we have perceived the secret spring that moves 
zoological evo.ution, it is different. Their hour has come, and 
we see how they can and should make their entrance at that 
fateful moment towards the end of the Tertiary era. 

On the whole, like all other animal groups, the primates 
appear morphologically as a series of overlapping verticils or 
ramifications, and, as usual, the terminals are sharply defined, 
the stems blurred (Diag. 3). At the top we have on either side 
the two great branches of the monkeys proper : the Catarrhines, 
true monkeys of the old world with 32 teeth ; and the Platyrr- 
hines of South America, with flattened nose and 36 teeth. Below, 
the lemurs, generally with an elongated snout and often pro- 



clivous incisors. Right at the bottom these two-tiered verticils 
seem to break off at the beginning of the Tertiary era from an 
' insectivorous ' ramification, the Tupaioids, of which they seem 
to represent a single radiation in a state of florescence. Nor is that 
all. At the heart of each of these two verticils we can distinguish 
a central sub-verticil of particularly ' cephalised ' forms. On 
the lemurian side, the Tarsioids, tiny jumping animals with a 
round, bulging cranium and huge eyes, whose sole living repre- 
sentative, the tarsier of Malaya, reminds us bizarrely of a little 
man. On the side of the Catarrhines we are all familiar with 
anthropoids (the gorilla, the chimpanzee, the orang-outang and 
the gibbon), tailless monkeys, the biggest and most alert of all 

The lemurs and the tarsiers were the first to reach their 
prime — towards the end of the Eocene age. As for the anthro- 
poids, we find them in Africa from the Oligocene onwards. 
But they certainly did not reach their maximum diversity and 
size until the end of the Pliocene. Then we find them in both 
Africa and India, i.e. always in tropical or sub-tropical zones. 
We should keep in mind this date and this mode of distribution 
for they contain a lesson. 

With that, we have placed the primates outwardly — both in 
duration and in their external form. We should now penetrate 
to the within of things and try to understand in what respect 
these animals differ from the others, seen from inside. 

What at once catches the anatomist's attention when he 
looks at monkeys (particularly the higher ones) is the aston- 
ishingly slight degree of differentiation in their bones. The 
cranial capacity is relatively much bigger than in any other 
mammal, but what are we to say of the rest ? An isolated molar 
belonging to a Dryopithecus or a chimpanzee could readily be 
confused with the tooth of an Eocene omnivore such as the 
Condylarths. Then the limbs — with their radiations still intact 
these exhibit the same plan and proportions that they had in the 
first tetrapods of the Palaeozoic era. In the course of the Tertiary 
era, the ungulates radically transformed the adjustment of their 



feet ; the carnivores reduced and sharpened their teeth ; the 
Cetacea streamlined themselves like fish ; the Proboscidea 
gready complicated their incisors and their molars. Meanwhile 
the primates on their side had kept their ulna intact and also their 
fibula ; they jealously hung on to their five fingers ; they 
remained typically tritubercular. Are we to consider them 
therefore the conservatives among mammals, the most con- 
servative of all ? 

No ; but they have shown themselves to be the most wary. 

In itself, at its best, the differentiation of an organ is an 
immediate factor of superiority. But, because it is irreversible, 
it also imprisons the animal that undergoes it in a restricted 
path at the end of which, under the pressure of orthogenesis, 
it runs the risk of ending up either in monstrosity or in fragility. 
Specialisation paralyses, ultra-specialisation kills. Palaeontology 
is littered with such catastrophes. Because, right up to the 
Pliocene period, the primates remained the most ' primitive ' 
of the mammals as regards their limbs, they remained also the 
most free. And what did they do with that freedom ? They 
used it to lift themselves dirough successive upthrusts to the 
very frontiers of intelligence. 

So we have now before us, simultaneously with the true 
definition of the primate, the answer to the problem which led 
us to study the primates. ' After the mammals, at the end of 
the Tertiary era, where will life be able to carry on ? ' 

What makes the primates so interesting and important to 
biology is, in the first place, that they represent a phylum of 
pure and direct cerebralisation. In the other mammals too, no 
doubt, the nervous system and instinct gradually develop. But 
in them the internal travail was distracted, limited and finally 
arrested by accessory differentiations. Pari Passu with their 
psychical development, horse, stag and tiger became, like the 
insect, to some extent prisoners of the instruments of their swift- 
moving or predatory ways. For that is what their limbs and teeth 
had become. In the case of the primates, on the other hand, 
evolution went straight to work on the brain, neglecting evcry- 



thing eke, which accordingly remained malleable. That is why 

they are at the head of the upward and onward march towards 

greater consciousness. In this singular and privileged case, the 

particular orthogenesis of the phylum happened to coincide exactly with 

the principal orthogenesis of life itselj : following Osborn's term 

which I shall borrow while changing its sense, it is ' aristogenesis ' book three 

— and thus unlimited. 

Hence this fust conclusion that if the mammals form a THOUGHT 

dominant branch, the dominant branch of the tree of life, the 
primates (i.e. the cerebro-manuals) are its leading shoot, and the 
anthropoids are the bud in which this shoot ends up. 

Thenceforward, it may be added, it is easy to decide where 
to look in all the biosphere to see signs of what is to be expected. 
We already knew that everywhere the active phyletic lines 
grow warm with consciousness towards the summit. But in 
one well-marked region at the heart of the mammals, where 
the most powerful brains ever made by nature are to be found, 
they become red hot. And right at the heart of that glow burns 
a point of incandescence. 

We must not lose sight of that line crimsoned by the dawn. 
After thousands of years rising below the horizon, a flame bursts 
forth at a stricdy localised point. 

Thought is born. 

1 60 



Preliminary Remark : The Human Paradox 

From a purely positivist point of view man is the most mys- 
terious and disconcerting of all the objects met with by science. 
In fact we may as well admit that science has not yet found a 
place for him in its representations of the universe. Physics 
has succeeded in provisionally circumscribing the world of the 
atom. Biology has been able to impose some sort of order on 
the constructions of life. Supported both by physics and biology, 
anthropology in its turn docs its best to explain the structure of 
the human body and some of its physiological mechanisms. 
But when all these features are put together, the portrait mani- 
festly falls short of the reality. Man, as science is able to recon- 
struct him today, is an animal like the others — so little separable 
anatomically from the anthropoids that the modern classifications 
made by zoologists return to the position of Linnaeus and include 
him with them in the same super-family, the hominidae. Yet, 
to judge by the biological results of his advent, is he not in 
reality something altogether different ? 

Morphologically the leap was extremely slight, yet it was 
the concomitant of an incredible commotion among the spheres 
of life — there lies the whole human paradox ; and there, in the 
same breath, is the evidence that science, in its present-day 
reconstructions of the world, neglects an essential factor, or 
rather, an entire dimension of the universe. 

In conformity with the general hypothesis which throughout 



this book has been leading us towards a coherent and expressive 
interpretation of the earth as it appears today > I want to show 
now, in this part devoted to thought, that, to give man his 
natural position in the world of experience, it is necessary and 
sufficient to consider the within as well as the without of things. 
This method has already enabled us to appreciate the grandeur 
and the direction of the movement of life ; and this method 
will serve once again to reconcile in our eyes the insignificance 
and the supreme importance of the phenomenon of man in an 
order that harmoniously re-descends on life and matter. 

Between the last strata of the Pliocene period, in which man is 
absent, and the next, in which the geologist is dumbfounded 
to find the first chipped flints, what has happened ? And what 
is the true measure of this leap ? 

It is our task to divine and to measure the answers to these 
questions before we follow step by step the march of mankind 
right down to the decisive stage in which it is involved today. 


A. The Threshold of the Element : the Hominisation 1 
the Individual 


a. Nature. Biologists are not yet agreed on whether or not 
there is a direction (still less a definite axis )of evolution ; nor 
is there any greater agreement among psychologists, and for a 
connected reason, as to whether the human psychism differs 
specifically (by ' nature ') from that of man's predecessors or 
not. As a matter of fact the majority of ' scientists ' would tend 
to contest the validity of such a breach of continuity. So much 
has been said, and is still said, about the intelligence of animals. 

If wc wish to settle this question of the ' superiority ' of man 
over the animals (and it is every bit as necessary to settle it for 
the sake of the ethics of life as well as for pure knowledge) I can 
1 [French : hominisation — a word coined by the author.] 



only see one way of doing so — to brush resolutely aside all those 
secondary and equivocal manifestations of inner activity in human 
behaviour, making straight for the central phenomenon, reflection. 

From our experimental point of view, reflection is, as the 
word indicates, the power acquired by a consciousness to turn 
in upon itself, to take possession of itself as of an object endowed 
with its own particular consistence and value : no longer merely 
to know, but to know oneself ; no longer merely to know, 
but to know that one knows. 1 By this individualisation of him- 
self in the depths of himself, the living element, which heretofore 
had been spread out and divided over a diffuse circle of per- 
ceptions and activites, was constituted for the first time as a 
centre in die form of a point at which all the impressions and 
experiences knit themselves together and fuse into a unity that 
is conscious of its own organisation. 

Now the consequences of such a transformation are immense, 
visible as clearly in nature as any of the facts recorded by physics 
or astronomy. The being who is the object of his own reflection, 
in consequence of that very doubling back upon himself, becomes 
in a flash able to raise himself into a new sphere. In reality, 
another world is born. Abstraction, logic, reasoned choice and 
inventions, mathematics, art, calculation of space and time, 
anxieties and dreams of love — all these activities of inner life 
are nothing else than the effervescence of the newly-formed 
centre as it explodes onto itself. 

This said, I have a question to ask. If, as follows from the 
foregoing, it is the fact of being ' reflective ' which constitutes 
the strictly ' intelligent ' being, can we seriously doubt that 
intelligence is the evolutionary lot proper to man and to man 
only ? If not, can we, under the influence of some false modesty, 
hesitate to admit that man's possession of it constitutes a radical 
advance on all forms of life that have gone before him ? Admit- 
tedly the animal knows, but it cannot know that it knows : that 
is quite certain. If it could, it would long ago have multiplied 

1 [frlott plus seulement connaitre, mais se connaitre; non plus seulement savoir, 
mais savoir que I'on sait.] 



its inventions and developed a system of internal constructions 
that could not have escaped our observation. In consequence 
it is denied access to a whole domain of reality in which we can 
move freely. We are separated by a chasm — or a threshold— 
which it cannot cross. Because we are reflective we are not only 
different but quite other. It is not merely a matter of change of 
degree, but of a change of nature, resulting from a change of 


So we find ourselves confronted with exactly what we 
expected at the end of the chapter we called Demeter. Life, 
being an ascent of consciousness, could not continue to advance 
indefinitely along its line without transforming itself in depth. 
It had, we said, like all growing realities in the world, to become 
different so as to remain itself. Here, in the accession to the power 
of reflection, emerges (more clearly recognisable than in the 
obscure primordial psychism of the first cells) the particular and 
critical form of transformation in which this surcreation or 
rebirth consisted for it. And at the same moment we find the 
whole curve of biogenesis reappearing summed up and clarified 
in this singular point. 

b. Theoretical Mechanism. All along, naturalists and philosophers 
have held opinions of the utmost divergence concerning the 
' psychical ' make-up of animals. For the early Schoolmen instinct 
was a sort of sub-intelligence, homogeneous and fixed, marking 
one of the ontological and logical stages by which being grades 
downwards from pure spirit to pure materiality. For the 
Cartesian only thought existed : so the animal, devoid of any 
within, was a mere automaton. For most modern biologists, 
as I have said already, there is no sharp line to be drawn between 
instinct and thought, neither being very much more than a 
sort of luminous halo enveloping the play — the only essential 
thing — of the determinisms of matter. 

In each of these varying opinions there is an element of 
truth, but also a cause of error which becomes apparent when, 
foDowing the point of view put forward in these pages, we make 
up our minds to recognise (i) that instinct, far from being an 



epiphenomenon, translates through its different expressions the 
very phenomenon of life, and (2) that it consequently represents a 
variable dimension. 

What exactly happens if we look at nature from this angle ? 

Firstly we realise better in our minds the fact and the reason 
for the diversity of animal behaviour. From the moment we 
regard evolution as primarily psychical transformation, we see 
there is not one instinct in nature, but a multitude of forms of 
instincts each corresponding to a particular solution of the 
problem of life. The ' psychical ' make-up of an insect is not and 
cannot be that of a vertebrate ; nor can the instinct of a squirrel be 
that of a cat or an elephant : this in virtue of the position of each 
on the tree of life. 

By the fact itself, in this variety, we begin to see legitimately 
a relief stand out and a gradation formed. If instinct is a variable 
dimension, the instincts will not only be different ; they constitute 
beneath their complexity, a growing system. They form as a 
whole a kind of fan-like structure in which the higher terms 
on each nervure are recognised each time by a greater range of 
choice and depending on a better denned centre of co-ordination 
and consciousness. And that is the very thing we see. The 
mind (or psyche) of a dog, despite all that may be said to the 
contrary, is positively superior to that of a mole or a fish. 1 

This being said, and I am merely presenting in a different 
light what has already been revealed in our study of life, the 
upholders of the spiritual explanation have no need to be dis- 
concerted when they see, or are obliged to see, in the higher 
animals (particularly in the great apes) ways and reactions which 
strangely recall those of which they make use to define the 
1 From this point of view it could be said that every form of instinct tends 
in its own way to become ' intelligence ' ; but it is only in the human line 
that (for extrinsic or intrinsic reasons) the operation has been successful all the 
■way. Having reached the stage of reflection, man would thus represent a single 
one of the innumerable modalities of consciousness tried out by life in the 
animal world. In all those other psychological worlds it is very difficult for 
us to enter, not only because in them knowledge is more confused, but because 
they work differently from ours. 



nature and prove the presence in man of ' a reasonable soul '. If 
the story of life is no more than a movement of consciousness 
veiled by morphology, it is inevitable that, towards the summit of 
the series, in the proximity of man, the ' psychical ' make-ups seem 
to reach the borders of intelligence. And that is exactly what happens. 

Hence light is thrown on the ' human paradox ' itself. We 
are disturbed to notice how little ' anthropos ' differs anatomi- 
cally from the other anthropoids, despite his incontestable mental 
pre-eminence in certain respects — so disturbed that we feel almost 
ready to abandon the attempt to distinguish them, at least 
towards their point of origin. But is not this extraordinary 
resemblance precisely what had to be ? 

When water is heated to boiling point under normal pressure, 
and one goes on heating it, the first thing that follows — without 
change of temperature — is a tumultuous expansion of freed and 
vaporised molecules. Or, taking a series of sections trom the 
base towards the summit of a cone, their area decreases con- 
stantly ; then suddenly, with another infinitesimal displacement, 
the surface vanishes leaving us with a point. Thus by these remote 
comparisons we are able to imagine the mechanism involved in 
the critical threshold of reflection. 

By the end of the Tertiary era, the psychical temperature in 
the cellular world had been rising for more than 500 million 
years. From branch to branch, from layer to layer, we have seen 
how nervous systems followed pari passu the process of increased 
complication and concentration. Finally, with the primates, an 
instrument was fashioned so remarkably supple and rich that the 
step immediately following could not take place without the 
whole animal psychism being as it were recast and consolidated 
on itself. Now this movement did not stop, for there was 
nothing in the structure of the organism to prevent it advancing. 
When the anthropoid, so to speak, had been brought ' mentally ' 
to boiling point some further calories were added. Or, when the 
anthropoid had almost reached the summit of the cone, a final 
effort took place along the axis. No more was needed for the 
whole inner equilibrium to be upset. What was previously only 



a centred surface became a centre. By a tiny ' tangential ' in- 
crease, the ' radial ' was turned back on itself and so to speak 
took an infinite leap forward. Outwardly, almost nothing in the 
organs had changed. But in depth, a great revolution had taken 
place : consciousness was now leaping and boiling in a space of 
super-sensory relationships and representations ; and simultane- 
ously consciousness was capable of perceiving itself in the con- 
centrated simplicity of its faculties. And all this happened for 
the first time. 1 

Those who adopt the spiritual explanation are right when 
they defend so vehemently a certain transcendence of man over 
the rest of nature. But neither are the materialists wrong when 
they maintain that man is just one further term in a series of 
animal forms. Here, as in so many cases, the two antithetical 
kinds of evidences are resolved in a movement — provided that 
in this movement we emphasise the highly natural phenomenon 
of the ' change of state '. From the cell to the thinking animal, 
as from the atom to the cell, a single process (a psychical kindling 
or concentration) goes on without interruption and always in the 
same direction. But by virtue of this permanence in the opera- 
tion, it is inevitable from the point of view of physics that certain 
leaps suddenly transform the subject of the operation. 
c. Realisation. Discontinuity in continuity : that is how, in the 
theory of its mechanism, the birth of thought, like that of life, 
presents itself and defines itself. 

1 Need I repeat that 1 confine myself here to the phenomena, i.e. to the 
experimental relations between consciousness and complexity, without pre- 
judging the deeper causes which govern the whole issue ? In virtue of the limi- 
tations imposed on our sensory knowledge by the play of the temporo-spatial 
series, it is only, it seems, under the appearances of a critical point that we can 
grasp experimentally the ' hominising ' (spiritualising) step to reflection. But, 
with that said, there is nothing to prevent the thinker who adopts a spiritual 
explanation from positing (for reasons of a higher order and at a later stage of 
his dialectic), under the phenomenal veil of a revolutionary transformation, 
whatever ' creative ' operation or ' special intervention ' he likes (see Prefatory 
Note). Is it not a principle universally accepted by Christian thought in its 
theological interpretation of reality that for our minds there arc different and 
successive planes of knowledge? 



But how has the mechanism worked in its concrete reality ? 
Had there been a witness to the crisis, what would have been 
externally visible to him of the metamorphosis ? 

As I shall be saying later on, when I come to deal with the 
' primaeval forms of man ', this picture we are so eager to paint 
will probably, like the origin of life, remain for ever beyond 
our grasp — and for the same reasons. The most we have to 
guide us here is the resource of thinking of the awakening of 
intelligence in the child in the course of ontogeny. Two remarks 
deserve, however, to be made, the one circumscribing, the other 
still further deepening, the mystery which veils this singular 
point from our imagination. 

The first is that to culminate in man at the stage of reflection, 
life must have been preparing a whole group of factors for a long 
time and simultaneously — though nothing at first sight could 
have given grounds for supposing that they would be linked 
together ' providentially '. 

It is true that in the end, from the organic point of view, the 
whole metamorphosis leading to man depends on die question 
of a better brain. But how was this cerebral perfectioning to be 
carried out — how could it have worked — if there had not been a 
whole series of other conditions realised at just the same time ? 
If the creature from which man issued had not been a biped, 
his hands would not have been free in time to release the jaws 
from their prehensile function, and the thick band of maxillary 
muscles which had imprisoned the cranium could not have been 
relaxed. It is thanks to two-footedness freeing the hands that the 
brain was able to grow ; and thanks to this, too, that the eyes, 
brought closer together on the diminished face, were able to 
converge and fix on what the hands held and brought before 
them — the very gesture which formed the external counterpart 
of reflection. In itself this marvellous conjunction should not 
surprise us. Surely the smallest thing formed in the world is 
always the result of the most formidable coincidence — a knot 
whose strands have been for all time converging from the four 
corners of space. Life docs not work by following a single thread, 



nor yet by fits and starts. It pushes forward its whole network at 
one and the same time. So is the embryo fashioned in the womb 
that bears it. This we have reason to know, but it is satisfying to 
us precisely to recognise that man was born under the same 
maternal law. And we are happy to admit that the birth of 
intelligence corresponds to a turning in upon itself, not only of 
the nervous system, but of the whole being. What at first sight 
disconcerts us, on the other hand, is the need to accept that this 
step could only be achieved at one single stroke. 

For that is to be my second remark, a remark I cannot avoid. 
In the case of human ontogeny we can slur over the question 
at what moment the new-born child may be said to achieve 
intelligence and become a thinking being, for we find a con- 
tinuous series of states happening in the same individual from 
the fertilised ovum to the adult. What does it matter whether 
there is a hiatus or where it might be ? It is quite different in the 
case of a phyletic embryogenesis in which each stage or each 
state is represented by a different being, and it is impossible (at any 
rate within the scope of modern methods of thought) to evade 
the problem of discontinuity. If the threshold of reflection is 
really (as its physical nature seems to require, and as we have 
ourselves admitted) a critical transformation, a mutation from 
zero to everything, it is impossible for us to imagine an inter- 
mediary individual at this precise level. Either this being has not 
yet reached, or it has already got beyond, this change of state. 
Look at it as we will, we cannot avoid the alternative — either 
thought is made unthinkable by a denial of its psychical trans- 
cendence over instinct, or we are forced to admit that it appeared 
between two individuals. 

The terms of this proposition are disconcerting, but they 
become less bizarre, and even inoffensive, if we observe that, 
speaking strictly as scientists, we may suppose that intelligence 
might (or even must) have been as little visible externally at its 
phyletic origin as it is today to our eyes in every new-born 
child at the ontogenetical stage: in which case every tangible 
subject of debate between the observer and the theorist disappears. 



To say nothing of the fact (see the second form of the ' un- 
graspable' in the footnote on p. 186) that any sort of scientific 
discussion today on the outward and visible signs of the first 
emergence of reflection on the earth (even supposing there had 
been a spectator there to see them) is quite impossible ; because, 
here if anywhere, we find ourselves in the presence of one of those 
beginnings (' infinitely small quantities in evolution ') automati- 
cally and irremediably removed from our range of vision by a 
thick layer of the past (see Note, p. 122). 

Without trying to picture the unimaginable, let us therefore 
keep hold of one idea— that the access to thought represents a 
threshold which had to be crossed at a single stride ; a ' trans- 
experimental ' interval about which scientifically we can say 
nothing, but beyond which we find ourselves transported onto 
an entirely new biological plane. 

d. Prolongation. It is only at this point that we can fully see the 
nature of the transit to reflection. In the first place it involved 
a change of state ; then, by this very fact, the beginning of 
another kind of life — precisely that interior life of which I have 
spoken above. A moment ago we compared the simplicity of 
the thinking mind with that of a geometrical point. It would 
have been better to speak of a line or an axis. Where intelligence 
is concerned, ' to be posited ' does not mean ' to be achieved '. 
As soon as a child is born, it must breathe or it will die. Similarly 
the reflective psychic centre, once turned in upon itself, can 
only subsist by means of a double movement which is in reality 
one and the same. It centres itself further on itself by pene- 
tration into a new space, and at the same time it centres the rest 
of the world around itself by the establishment of an ever more 
coherent and better organised perspective in the realities which 
surround it. We are not dealing with an immutably fixed focus 
but with a vortex which grows deeper as it sucks up the fluid 
at the heart of which it was born. The ego only persists by becom- 
ing ever more itself, in the measure in which it makes everything 
else itself. So man becomes a person in and through personalisation. 
Obviously by the effect of such a transformation the entire 



structure of life is modified. Up to this point the animated 
element was so narrowly subject to the phylum that its own 
individuality could be regarded as accessory and sacrificed. It 
received, maintained, acquired if possible, reproduced and trans- 
mitted. And so on ceaselessly and indefinitely. Caught up 
in the chain of succeeding generations, the animal seemed to 
lack the right to live ; it appeared to have no value for itself. It 
was a fugitive foothold for a process which passed over it and 
ignored it. Life, once again, was more real than living things. 

With the advent of the power of reflection (an essentially 
elemental property, at any rate to begin with) everything is 
changed, and we now perceive that under the more striking 
reality of the collective transformations a secret progress has 
been going on parallel to individualisation. The more highly 
each phylum became charged with psychism, the more it tended 
to ' granulate '. The animal grew in value in relation to the 
speci2S. Finally at the level of man the phenomenon gathers new 
power and takes definitive shape. With the ' person ', endowed 
by ' personalisation ' with an indefinite power of elemental 
evolution, the branch ceases to bear, as an anonymous whole, 
the exclusive promises for the future. The cell has become 
' someone '. After the grain of matter, the grain of life ; and 
now at last we see constituted the^rai'n oj thought. 

Does that mean that the phylum loses its function from this 
moment and vanishes in thin air, like those animals who lose 
their identity in a veritable dust of spores which they give birth 
to in dying ? Above the point of reflection, does the whole 
interest of evolution shift, passing from life into a plurality of 
isolated living beings ? 

Nothing of the sort. Only, from this crucial date the global 
spurt, without slackening in the slightest, has acquired another 
degree, another order of complexity. The phylum does not 
break like a fragile jet just because henceforward it is fraught 
with thinking centres ; it does not crumble into its elementary 
psychisms. On the contrary it is reinforced by an inner lining, 
an additional framework. Until now it was enough to consider 



in nature a simple vibration on a wide front, the ascent of 
individual centres of consciousness. What we now have to do is to 
define and regulate harmoniously an ascent of consciousnesses (a 
much more delicate phenomenon). We are dealing with a pro- 
gress made up of other progresses as lasting as itself ; a movement 
of movements. 

Let us try to lift our minds high enough to dominate the 
problem. For that, let us forget for a moment die particular 
destiny of the spiritual elements engaged in the general trans- 
formation. It is, in point of fact, only by following the ascension 
and spread of the whole in its main lines that we are able, after 
a long detour, to determine the part reserved for individual hopes 
in the total success. 

We thus reach the personalisation of the individual by the 
' hominisation ' of the whole group. 

b. The Threshold of the Phylum : the Hominisation of the Species 

Thus, through this leap of intelligence, whose nature and 
mechanism we have been analysing in the thinking particle, 
life continues in some way to spread as though nothing had 
happened. According to all appearances, propagation, multi- 
plication and ramification went on in man, as in other animals, 
after the threshold of thought, as busily as before. Nothing, one 
might think, had altered in the current. But the water in it was 
no longer the same. Like a river enriched by contact with an 
alluvial plain, the vital flux, as it crossed the stages of reflection, 
was charged with new principles, and as a result manifested new 
activities. From now onwards it was not merely animated 
grains which the pressure of evolution pumped up the living 
stem, but grains of thought. What was to happen under this 
influence to the colour or the shape of the leaves, the flowers, 
the fruit ? 

I would be anticipating later developments of our argument 
if I gave a detailed and considered answer to this question now. 



But it would be as well to indicate at once three particularities 
which manifest themselves in any and every operation or pro- 
duction of the species from the moment the threshold of thought 
is crossed. One concerns the composition of new branches, 
another the general direction of their growth, the third their 
relations to and differences from — taken as a whole — what had 
flourished earlier on the tree of life. 

a. The composition of the human branches. Whatever idea we have 
about the inner mechanism of evolution, there is no denying 
that each zoological group is enclosed in a certain psychological 
envelope. We have already said that each type of insect, bird or 
mammal has its own instincts. So far no attempt has been made 
to link together systematically the two elements, namely the 
somatic and psychic, of the species. There are naturalists who 
describe and classify shapes, and others who specialise in the study 
of behaviour. In fact, below man, purely morphological criteria 
provide a perfectly adequate framework for studying the dis- 
tribution of species. But from the advent of man difficulties 
appear. We cannot fail to be aware of the extreme confusion 
which prevails concerning the significance and the distribution 
of the extremely varied groups into which mankind divides up 
under our very eyes — races, nations, states, countries, cultures, 
etc. In these diverse and constantly shifting categories, people as 
a rule only care to see heterogeneous units — some natural (race), 
others artificial (nations) — overlapping irregularly on different 

It is an unpleasing and unnecessary irregularity, and one 
which vanishes as soon as we give its proper place to the within 
as well as to the without of things. 

Indeed, from this more comprehensive point of view, the 
composition of the human group with its branches, however 
confused it may appear, can be reduced nevertheless to the 
general rules of biology. But, by the exaggeration of a variable 
that had remained negligible in the animals, it simply brings 
out the dual nature of those rules or even, on the contrary — if 
what is somatic is woven by the psyche — their fundamental 



unity. This is not an exception but a generalisation. It is impos- 
sible to remain long in doubt : in the world become human 
it is always the zoological ramification which, in spite of all 
appearances and all complexities, pushes onwards and operates 
according to the same mechanism as before. Only, as a result 
of the quantity of inner energy liberated by reflection, the 
operation then tends to emerge from the material organs so as 
to formulate itself also or even above all in the mind. What is 
spontaneously psychical is no longer merely an aura round the 
' soma '. It becomes an appreciable part, or even a principal 
part, of the phenomenon. And because variations of soul are 
much richer and more subtle than the often imperceptible organic 
changes which accompany them, it is obvious that the mere 
inspection of bones or integuments will not suffice to explain 
or to catalogue the progresses of the total zoological differentia- 
tion. That is how things stand. And the remedy faces us no less 
clearly. To unravel the structure of a thinking phylum, anatomy 
by itself is not enough : it must be backed up by psychology. 

This is a laborious complication of course, since it becomes 
clear that no satisfactory classification of the human ' genus ' 
will be forthcoming, save through the combined play of two 
partially independent variable. But it is a fruitful complication, 
for two reasons. 

On the one hand, at the price of this difficulty, order and 
homogeneity — that is to say, truth — come back into our per- 
spectives of life extended to include man ; and, because we 
realise correlatively the organic value of every social construction, 
we feel already more inclined to treat it as a subject of science, 
hence to respect it. 

On the other hand, from the very fact that the fibres of the 
human phylum appear surrounded by their psychic sheath, 
we can begin to understand the extraordinary power of aggluti- 
nation and coalescence that they show. Which brings us at the 
same time on the track of the fundamental discovery with which 
our study of the phenomenon of man is to culminate — the con- 
vergence of the spirit. 



b. The General Direction of Growth. So long as our perspectives 
of the psychic nature of zoological evolution were based only 
on the examination of animal lines and their nervous systems, 
the direction of that evolution remained perforce as vague for 
our knowledge as the soul itself of those distant relations of ours. 
Consciousness rises through living beings : that was about all 
we were able to say. But from the moment the threshold of 
thought is crossed its progress becomes easier to unravel ; for 
life has not only reached the rung on which we ourselves stand, 
but begins to overflow freely by its free activity beyond the 
boundary within which it had been confined by the exigences 
of physiology. The message is more clearly written, and we 
are better able to follow it, because we recognise ourselves in it. 
Earlier, when we were discussing the tree of life, we noticed as 
a fundamental character that brains grew bigger and became 
more differentiated along each zoological stem. To define the ex- 
tension and the counterpart of this law (after the transit to reflec- 
tion) it will henceforth be sufficient to say : ' Following each 
anthropological line, it is the human element that seeks itself and 

A moment ago I referred to the unparalleled complexity of 
the human group — all those races, those nations, those states 
whose entanglements defy the resourcefulness of anatomists and 
ethnologists alike. There are so many rays in that spectrum that 
we despair of analysing them. Let us try instead to perceive 
what this multiplicity represents when viewed as a whole. If 
we do this we will see that its disturbing aggregation is nothing 
but a multitude of sequins all sending back to each other by 
reflection the same light. We find hundreds or thousands of 
facets, each expressing at a different angle a reality which seeks 
itself among a world of groping forms. We are not astonished 
(because it happens to us) to see in each person around us the 
spark of reflection developing year by year. We are all conscious, 
too, at all events vaguely, that something in our atmosphere is 
changing with the course of history. If we add these two pieces 
of evidence together (and rectify certain exaggerated views on 

177 M 


the purely ' germinal ' and passive nature of heredity), how is 
it that we are not more sensitive to the presence of something 
greater than ourselves moving forward within us and in our 
midst ? 

Up to the level of thought a question could still be asked of 
the science of nature — the question about the evolutionary value 
and transmission of acquired characters. As we know, the 
biologist tended, and still tends, to be sceptical and evasive ; and 
perhaps he is right, as regards the fixed zones of the body he likes 
to confine himself to. But what happens if we give the psyche 
its legitimate place in the integrity of living organisms ? Im- 
mec'iitely, over the alleged independence of the phyletic ' germ- 
plasm ', the individual activity of the ' soma ' reclaims its rights. 
In the insects, for example, or the beaver, we see in the most 
blatant way the existence of hereditarily-formed or even fixed 
instincts underlying the play of animal spontaneities. From 
reflection onwards, the reality of this mechanism becomes not 
only manifest but preponderant. Under the free and ingenious 
effort of successive intelligences, something (even in the absence of 
any measurable variation of brain or cranium) irreversibly 
accumulates, according to all the evidence, and is transmitted, at 
least collectively by means of education, down the course of 
ages. The point here is that this ' something ' — construction of 
matter or construction of beauty, systems of thought or systems 
of action— ends up always by translating itself into an augmenta- 
tion of consciousness, and consciousness in its turn, as we now 
know, is nothing less than the substance and heart of life in process 
of evolution. 

What can this mean except that, over and above this particular 
phenomenon — the individual accession to reflection — science 
has grounds for recognising another phenomenon of a reflective 
nature co-extensive with the whole of mankind. Here as else- 
where in the universe, the whole shows itself to be greater than the 
simple sum of the elements of which it is formed. The human 
individual does not exhaust in himself the vital potentialities of 
his race. But following each strand known to anthropology 



and sociology, we meet with a stream whereby a continuing 
and transmissible tradition of reflection is established and allowed 
to increase. So from individual men there springs the human 
reality ; from human phylogenesis, the human stem. 1 
c. Connections and Differences. That seen and accepted, under 
what form should we expect the human stem to rise up ? Will 
it, because it is a thinking stem, sever the fibres which attach it 
to the past — and, at the summit of the vertebrate branch, will 
it develop from new elements and according to a new plan, like 
some neoplasm ? To imagine such a rupture would be, once 
again, to misjudge and underestimate our own ' dimension ' 
as well as the organic unity of the world and the methods of 
evolution. In a flower the sepals, petals, stamens and pistil arc 
not leaves and they have probably never been leaves. Yet they 
possess unmistakably in their attachments and their texture 
everything that would have resulted in a leaf had they not been 
formed under a new influence and a new destiny. Similarly, 
with the human inflorescence, we can see transformed or under- 
going transformation the vessels, the disposition, and even the 
sap of the stalk upon which the inflorescence was born : not 
only the individual structure of the organs and the interior 
ramifications of the species, but even the tendencies and behaviour 
of the * soul '. 

In man, considered as a zoological group, everything is 
extended simultaneously — sexual attraction, with the laws of 
reproduction ; the inclination to struggle for survival, with the 
competitions it involves; the need for nourishment, with the 
accompanying taste for seizing and devouring ; curiosity, to 
see, with its delight in investigation ; the attraction of joining 
others to live in society. Each of these fibres traverses each 
one of us, coming up from far below and stretching beyond 
and above us. And each one of them has its story (no less true 

1 [Even if the Lamarckian view of the heritability of acquired charac- 
teristics is biologically vieux jeu, and decisively refuted, when we reach the 
human level and have to reckon with history, culture etc., * transmission ' 
becomes ' tradition '. Sec M. Polanyi, Personal Knowledge (Kegan Paul, 1958)]. 



than any other) to tell of the whole course of evolution — 
evolution of love, evolution of war, evolution of research, 
evolution of the social sense. But each one, just because it is 
evolutionary, undergoes a metamorphosis as it crosses the 
threshold of reflection. Beyond this point it is enriched by new 
possibilities, new colours, new fertility. It is the same thing, 
if you tike, but it is something quite different also — a figure that 
has become transformed by a change of space and dimension, dis- 
continuity superimposed upon continuity, mutation upon evolu- 

In this supple inflection, in this harmonious recasting which 
transfigures the whole grouping of vital antecedences, both 
external and internal, we cannot fail to find precious confirma- 
tion of what we had already guessed. When an object begins 
to grow in one of its accessory parts, it is thrown out of equili- 
brium and becomes deformed. To remain symmetrical and 
beautiful a body must be modified simultaneously throughout, 
in the direction of one of its principal axes. Reflection conserves 
even while re-shaping all the lines of the phylum on which it 
settles. There is no fortuitous excrescence of a parasitic energy. 
Man only progresses by slowly elaborating from age to age the 
essence and the totality of a universe deposited within him. 

To this grand process of sublimation it is fitting to apply 
with all its force the word hominisation. Horninisation can be 
accepted in the first place as the individual and instantaneous 
leap from instinct to thought, but it is also, in a wider sense, 
the progressive phyletic spiritualisation in human civilisation of 
all the forces contained in the animal world. 

Thus we are led — after having considered the element and 
pictured the species — to contemplate the earth in its totality. 

c. The Threshold of the Terrestrial Planet : the Noosphere 

When compared to all the living verticils, die human phylum 
is not like any other. But because the specific orthogenesis of 

1 80 


the primates (urging them towards increasing cerebralisation) 
coincides with the axial orthogenesis of organised matter (urging 
all living things towards a higher consciousness) man, appearing 
at the heart of the primates, flourishes on the leading shoot of 
zoological evolution. It was with this observation that we 
rounded off our remarks on the state of the Pliocene world. 

It is easy to see what privileged value that unique situation 
will confer upon the transit to reflection. 

' The biological change of state terminating in the awakening 
of thought does not represent merely a critical point that the 
individual or even the species must pass through. Vaster than 
that, it affects life itself in its organic totality, and consequendy 
it marks a transformation affecting the state of the entire planet.' 

Such is the evidence — born of all the other testimony we have 
gradually assembled and added together in the course of our 
nquiry — which imposes itself irresistibly on both our logic and 

We have been following the successive stages of the same 
grand progression from the fluid contours of the early earth. 
Beneath the pulsations of geo-chemistry, of geo-tectonics and 
of geo-biology, we have detected one and the same fundamental 
process, always recognisable — the one which was given material 
form in the first cells and was continued in the construction of 
nervous systems. We saw geogenesis promoted to biogenesis, 
which turned out in the end to be nothing else than psycho- 

With and within the crisis of reflection, the next term in the 
series manifests itself. Psychogenesis has led to man. Now it 
effaces itself, relieved or absorbed by another and a higher 
function — the engendering and subsequent development of the 
mind, in one word noogenesis. When for the first time in a living 
creature instinct perceived itself in its own mirror, the whole 
world took a pace forward. 

As regards the choices and rep onsibili ties of our activity, 
the consequences of this discovery are enormous. As regards 
our understanding of the earth they are decisive. 



Geologists have for long agreed in admitting the zonal 
composition of our planet. We have already spoken of the 
barysphere, central and metallic, surrounded by the rocky 
lithosphere that in turn is surrounded by the fluid layers of the 
hydrosphere and the atmosphere. Since Suess, science has rightly 
become accustomed to add another to these four concentric 
layers, the living membrane composed of the fauna and flora of 
the globe, the biosphere, so often mentioned in these pages, an 
envelope as definitely universal as the other ' spheres ' and even 
more definitely individualised than them. For, instead of repre- 
senting a more or less vague grouping, it forms a single piece, 
of the very tissue of the genetic relations which delineate the tree 
of life. 

The recognition and isolation of a new era in evolution, the 
ear of noogenesis, obliges us to distinguish correlatively a support 
proportionate to the operation — that is to say, yet another mem- 
brane in the majestic assembly of telluric layers. A glow ripples 
outward from the first spark of conscious reflection. The point 
of ignition grows larger. The fire spreads in ever widening 
circles till finally the whole planet is covered with incandescence. 
Only one interpretation, only one name can be found worthy 
of this grand phenomenon. Much more coherent and just as 
extensive as any preceding layer, it is really a new layer, the 
' thinking layer \ which, since its germination at the end of the 
Tertiary period, has spread over and above the world of plants 
and animals. In other words, outside and above the biosphere 
there is the noospherc. 

With that it bursts upon us how utterly warped is every 
classification of the living world (or, indirectly, every construc- 
tion of the physical one) in which man only figures logically 
as a genus or a new family. This is an error of perspective which 
deforms and uncrowns the whole phenomenon of the universe. 
To give man his true place in nature it is not enough to find 
one more pigeon-hole in the edifice of our systematisation or 
even an additional order or branch. With hominisation, in spite 
of the insignificance of the anatomical leap, we have the begin- 



ning of a new age. The earth ' gets a new skin '. Better still, it 
finds its soul. 

Therefore, given its place in reality in proper dimensions, 
the historic threshold of reflection is much more important than 
any zoological gap, whether it be the one marking the origin of 
the tetrapods or even that of the metazoa. Among all the stages 
successively crossed by evolution, the birth of thought comes 
directly after, and is the only thing comparable in order of 
importance to, the condensation of the terrestrial chemism or the 
advent of life itself. 

The paradox of man resolves itself by passing beyond measure. 
Despite the relief and harmony it brings to things, this perspective 
is at first sight disconcerting, running counter as it does to the 
illusion and habits which incline us to measure events by their 
material face. It also seems to us extravagant because, steeped 
as wc are in what is human like a fish in the sea, we have diffi- 
culty in emerging from it in our minds so as to appreciate its 
specificness and breadth. But let us look round us a little more 
carefully. This sudden deluge of cerebralisation, this biological 
invasion of a new animal type which gradually eliminates or 
subjects all forms of life that are not human, this irresistible tide 
of fields and factories, this immense and growing edifice of 
matter and ideas — all these signs that we look at, for days on end 
— to proclaim that there has been a change on the earth and a 
change of planetary magnitude. 

There can indeed be no doubt that, to an imaginary geologist 
coming one day far in the future to inspect our fossilised globe, 
the most astounding of the revolutions undergone by the earth 
would be that which took place at the beginning of what has 
so rightly been called the psychozoic era. And even today, to a 
Martian capable of analysing sidereal radiations psychically no 
less than physically, the first characteristic of our planet would be, 
not the blue of the seas or the green of the forests, but the phos- 
phorescence of thought. 

The greatest revelation open to science today is to perceive 
that everything precious, active and progressive originally con- 



tained in that cosmic fragment from which our world emerged, 
is now concentrated in a ' crowning ' noospherc. 

And what is so supremely instructive about the origins of 
this noosphere (if we know how to look) is to see how gradually, 
by dint of being universally and lengthily prepared, the enormous 
event of its birth took place. 


Man came silently into the world. 

For a century or so, the scientific problem of the origin of 
man has been under discussion, and a swelling team of research 
workers has been digging feverishly into die past to discover 
the initial point of hominisation, and yet I cannot find a more 
expressive formula than this to sum up all our prehistoric know- 
ledge. The more we find of fossil human remains and the better 
we understand their anatomic features and their succession in 
geological time, the more evident it becomes, by an unceasing 
convergence of all signs and proofs, that the human ' species ', 
however unique the ontological position that reflection gave 
it, did not, at the moment of its advent, make any sweeping 
change in nature. Whether we consider the species in its environ- 
ment, in the morphology of its stem, or in the global structure of 
its group, we see it emerge phyletically exactly like any other 

Firstly, in its environment. As we know from palaeontology, 
an animal form never comes singly. It is sketched out in the 
heart of a verticil of neighbouring forms among which it takes 
shape, so to speak, gropingly. So it is with man. Regarded 
zoologically, man is today an almost isolated figure in nature. 
In his cradle he was less isolated. Nowadays there is no more 
room for doubt. Over a well-defined but immense area, extend- 
ing from South Africa to Southern China and Malaya, amongst 
the rocks and the forest, at the end of the Tertiary period, the 
anthropoids were far more numerous than they are today. 



Besides the gorilla, chimpanzee and orang-outang, now thrown 
back into their last strongholds like the Australian bushmen and 
the negrillos of our day, there was a whole population of other big 
primates, some of whom (the African Australopithecus, for 
instance) seem to have been far more hominoid than any alive 

Secondly, in the morphology of its stem. With the multiplica- 
tion of sister-forms ', what indicates to the naturalist the origin 
of a living stem is a certain convergence of the axis of that stem 
with that of its neighbours. In the proximity of a knot, the leaves 
grow closer together. Not only is a species at its birth found 
bunched with others, but, like them it betrays much more 
clearly than in adult life its zoological parentage. The farther we 
follow an animal line back into the past, the more numerous 
and the more palpable arc its ' primitive ' features. Here too, 
man, on the whole, keeps strictly to the habitual phyletic mechan- 
ism. All we need is to try to arrange in a descending series 
Pithecanthropus and Sinanthropus after the Neanderthaloids 
below present-day man. Palaeontology does not often succeed 
in tracing so satisfying an alignment. 

Thirdly, in the structure oj its group. However well-defined 
the characters of a phylum may be, it is never found to be alto- 
gether simple, like a pure radiation. On the contrary, as far 
as we can follow it into the depths of its past, it manifests an 
internal tendency to cleavage and dispersion. Newly born, or 
even while being born, the species breaks up into varieties or 
sub-species. This is known to all naturalists. Keeping it in mind, 
let us take another look at man, man whose pre-history (even 
the most ancient) proves his congenital aptitude for ramification. 
Is it possible to deny that in the fan of the anthropoids he isolated 
himself — in this subject to the laws of all animate matter — as a 
fan of his own ? 

I was not exaggerating in the least. The more deeply science 
plumbs the past of our humanity, the more clearly does it see 
that humanity, as a species, conforms to the rhythm and the rules 
that marked each new offshoot on the tree of life before the 



advent of mankind. Thus we are logically obliged to pursue 
the subject to its conclusion. Since man as a species is at birth so 
similar to the other phyla, let us stop being surprised if, as with 
all living groups, the fragile secrets of his earliest origins give 
our science the slip; and let us henceforward forbear to force 
and falsify this natural condition with clumsy questionings. 

Man came silently into the world. As a matter of fact he 
trod so softly that, when we first catch sight of him as revealed 
by those indestructible stone instruments, we find him sprawling 
all over the old world from the Cape of Good Hope to Peking. 
Without doubt he already speaks and lives in groups ; he already 
makes fire. After all, this is surely what we ought to expect. 
As we know, each time a new living form rises up before us out 
of the depths of history, it is always complete and already legion. 
Thus in the eyes of science, which at long range can only see 
things in bulk, the ' first man ' is, and can only be, a crowd, and 
his infancy is made up of thousands and thousands of years. 1 

It is inevitable that this situation should be disappointing, 
leaving our curiosity unsatisfied. For what most interests us is 
precisely what happened during those first thousands of years. 
And still more, what marked the first critical moment. Dearly 
would we love to know what those first parents o( ours looked 
like, the ones that stood just this side of the threshold of reflection. 
As I have already said, that threshold had to be crossed in a single 
stride. Imagine the past to have been photographed section by 
section : at that critical moment of initial hominisation, what 
should we sec when we developed our fdm ? 

If we have understood the limits of enlargement imposed by 
nature on the instrument which helps us to study the landscape 

1 That is why the problem of monogenism in the stria sense of the word 
(I do not say monophyletism— see below) seems to elude science as such by its 
very nature. At those depths of time when hominisation took place, the 
presence and the movements of a unique couple are positively ungraspable, 
unrcvealable to our eyes at no matter what magnification. Accordingly one 
can say that there is room m this interval for anything that a trans-experimental 
source of knowledge might demand. 

1 86 


of the past, we shall be prepared to forgo the satisfaction of 
this futile curiosity. No photograph could record upon the 
human phylum diis passage to reflection which so naturally 
intrigues us, for the simple reason that the phenomenon took 
place inside that which is always lacking in a reconstructed 
phylum — the peduncle of its original forms. 

But if die tangible forms of this peduncle escape us, can we 
not at any rate guess indirectly at its complexity and initial 
structure ? On these points palaeanthropology has not yet made 
up its mind. We could, however, try to form an opinion. 1 

A number of anthropologists, and those not the least eminent, 
think the peduncle of our race must have been composed of 
several distinct but related ' bundles '. Just as, on the plane of 
human intellect, once a certain degree of preparation and tension 
has been reached, the same idea may come to birth at several 
points simultaneously, so in the same way, man, according to 
these authorities, must have started simultaneously in several 
regions on the ' anthropoid layer ' of the Pliocene era, thereby 
following the general mechanism of all life. This is not properly 
speaking ' polyphyletism ', because the different points of 
germination are located on the same zoological stem, but it is an 
extensive mutation of the whole stein itself. The idea involves 
' hologenesis ' and therefore polycentricity. What we get is a 
whole series of points of hominisation scattered along a sub- 
tropical zone of the earth, and hence several human stems be- 
coming genetically merged somewhere beneath the threshold of 
reflection ; not a ' focus ' but a ' front ' of evolution. 

Though not disputing the value and the scientific probabilities 
of this perspective, I feel myself personally attracted to a slightly 

1 Some idea of how the transit to man was effected zoologically is perhaps 
suggested by the case of Australopithecus mentioned above. In this South 
African family of Pliocene anthropomorphs (evidently a group in a state of 
active mutation) in which a whole scries of hominoid characters overlay a 
basis still clearly simian, we can see an image perhaps, or call it a faint echo, 
of what was taking place at about the same period even not far from there, in 
another anthropoid group, in this case culminating in genuine hominisa- 

I8 7 


different hypothesis. I have already stressed several times that 

curious peculiarity shown by zoological branches of bearing 

fixed on them, like essential characters, certain traits whose origin 

is plainly peculiar and accidental— such as the tritubercular teeth 

and seven cervical vertebrae of the higher mammals, the four- 

footedness of the walking vertebrates, the rotatory power in one 

particular direction of organic substances. Precisely because these 

traits are secondary and accidental, their universal occurrence 

in groups, sometimes vast, can only be properly explained by 

assuming these groups to derive from a highly particularised 

and therefore extremely localised verticil. We would thus 

perhaps find no more than a single radiation in a verticil to support 

originally a layer or even a branch or even the whole of life. Or, 

if some convergence has played a part, it can only have been 

amongst closely-related fibres. 

In the light of these considerations, and particularly when 
dealing with a group as homogeneous and specialised as the one 
under discussion, I feel inclined to minimise die effects of paral- 
lelism in the initial formation of the human branch. On the 
verticil of the higher primates, this branch did not, in my opinion, 
glean its fibres here and there, one by one, from the whole 
range offered : but, even more closely than any other species, 
this branch, I am convinced, represents the thickening and suc- 
cessful development of one solitary stem among all— this stem 
being, moreover, the most central of the collection because the 
most vital and, except for the brain, the least specialised. If 
that is right, all human lines join up genetically, but at the 
bottom, at the very point of reflection. 1 

And now, if we do assume the strictly unique existence of 
such a peduncle at the origin of man, what more (still keeping 
to the plane of pure phenomena) can we say about its length 
and probable thickness ? Should we, like Osborn, locate its 

1 Which amounts to saying that if the science of man can say nothing directly 
for or against monogenism (a single initial couple— sec note p. 186) it can on 
the other hand come out decisively, it seems, in favour of monophyletism (a 
single phylum). 



separation very low down, in the Eocene or Oligocene period 
in a ramification of pre-anthropoid forms ? Or should we, like 
W. K. Gregory, regard it as a branching off from the anthropoid 
verticil as late as the Pliocene age ? 

Another question, always on the same subject and still 
maintaining a strictly ' phenomenal ' attitude : what minimum 
diameter should we ascribe as biologically possible to this stem 
(whether it is deep or not) if we consider it at its initial point 
of hominisation ? For it to be able to ' mutate ', resist and live, 
what is the minimum number of individuals (in order of size) 
that must have undergone simultaneously the metamorphosis of 
reflec:ion ? However monophyletic one supposes it to be, surely 
a species is always sketched out like a diffuse current in a river — by 
mass effects ? Or, on the contrary, should wc rather view it as 
propagating itself like crystallisation beginning with a few parts 
— by effect of unities ? In our minds the two symbols (each pardy 
uue perhaps) still conflict and have their respective advantages 
and attractions. We must have the patience to wait until their 
synthesis is established. 

Let us wait. And to encourage our patience let us recall 
the two following points. 

The first is that on every hypothesis, however solitary his 
advent, man emerged from a general groping of the world. He 
was born a direct lineal descendant from a total effort of life, 
so that the species has an axial value and a pre-eminent dignity. 
At bottom, to satisfy our intelligence and the requirements of 
our conduct, we have no need to know more than this. 

The second point is that, fascinating as the problem of our 
origin is, its solution even in detail would not solve the problem 
of man. Wc have every reason to regard the discovery of fossil 
men as one of the most illuminating and critical lines of modern 
research. We must not, however, on that account, entertain 
any illusions concerning the limits in all its domains of that form 
of analysis that we call embryogenesis. If in its structure the 
embryo of each thing is fragile, fleeting and hence, in the past, 
practically ungraspablc, how much more is it ambiguous and 



undecipherable in its lineaments ? It is not in their germinal 
state that beings manifest themselves but in their florescence. 
Taken at the source, the greatest rivers are no more than narrow 


To grasp the truly cosmic scale of the phenomenon of man, 
we had to follow its roots through life, back to when the earth 
first folded in on itself. But if we want to understand the specific 
nature of man and divine his secret, we have no other method 
than to observe what reflection has already provided and what 
it announces ahead. 




In order to multiply the contacts necessary for its gropings 
and to be able to store up the multifarious variety of its riches, 
life is obliged to move forward in terms of deep masses. And 
when therefore its course emerges from the gorges in which a 
new mutation has so to speak strangled it, the narrower the 
channel from which it emerges and the vaster the surface it has 
to cover with its flow, the more it needs to re-group itself in 

Our picture is of mankind labouring under the impulsion of 
an obscure instinct, so as to break out through its narrow point 
of emergence and submerge the earth ; of thought becoming 
number so as to conquer all habitable space, taking precedence 
over all other forms of life ; of mind, in other words, deploy- 
ing and convoluting the layers of the noosphere. This effort at 
multiplication and organic expansion is, for him who can see, 
the summing up and final expression of human pre-history and 
history, from the earliest beginnings down to the present day. 

We will now try, in a few bold strokes, to map out the 
phases or successive waves of this invasion (diag. 4). 


Towards the very end of the lower Pleistocene period, a vast 
upward movement, a positive jolt, seems to have affected the 




Homo sapiens 



+ — + Australopithecus 
Socialized Zone 



diagram 4. The development of the human Layer. 
The figures on the left indicate thousands of years. They 
are a minimum estimate and should probably be at least 
doubled. The hypothetical zone of convergence on the point 
Omega is obviously not to scale. By analogy with other 
living layers, its duration should certainly run into thousands 
of years. 

continental masses of the old world from the Atlantic to the 
Pacific. 1 Almost everywhere, at this period, we find the land 
being drained, ravines being carved, and thick layers of alluvium 
spreading over the plains. Before this great upheaval we can 
establish no certain trace of man anywhere. Yet it was barely over 
when we find chipped stone mixed with the gravels on almost 
all the raised lands of Africa, Western Europe and Southern 

Man of the Lower Quaternary period, the contemporary 
and the author of these earliest tools is only known to us in 
two fossil remains. We know them well, however — the Pithe- 
canthropus of Java, long represented only by a simple skull, 
but now by much more satisfactory specimens recendy dis- 
covered ; and the Sinanthropus of China, numerous specimens 
of which have been found in the last ten years. These two beings 
are so closely related that the nature of each would have remained 
obscure if we had not had the good fortune to be able to compare 
them. 8 

What can we learn from these venerable relics which are at 
least some one or two hundred thousand years old ? 

To begin with, anthropologists are now in agreement on 
one point : both Pithecanthropus and Sinanthropus are already 
definitely hominid in their anatomy. If we arrange their skulls 
in series between those of the great apes on the one hand and 
modern man on the other, we are at once struck by the wide 
morphological breach, the void, apparent between them and the 
anthropoids, while on the human side they seem to fall naturally 
into the same cast. We find a relatively short face and a relatively 
spacious cranium. In Trinil man die cerebral capacity hardly 
descends below 800 c.c. while with Peking man in the biggest 

1 At the end of the Villafranchian age, to be more exact. [By a decision of 
the International Geological Congress (1948), the Villafranchian is now included 
in the Pleistocene.] 

* To avoid complicating the story, I will say nothing here of Heidelberg 
man. However ancient and remarkable his jaw, we do not know enough 
about him to determine his real anthropological position. 



males it reaches noo. 1 We find a lower jaw essentially con- 
structed on human lines towards the symphysis, and lastly and 
most important of all. we find erect biped posture leaving the 
fore limbs free. With all these signs it is quite obvious that we 
are on the human side of the line. 

However hominid the Pithecanthropus and Smanthropus 
were, judged by their physiognomy they were certainly strange 
creatures such as have long ago vanished from the earth. Elon- 
gated skull, markedly compressed behind enormous orbits ; 
flattened cranium whose transverse section, instead of being 
ovoid or pentagonal, as with us, forms an arch widely open at 
the level of the ears ; strongly ossified skull whose brain-box 
does not project backwards but is surrounded posteriorly by a 
thick occipital roll ; a prognathous skull whose dental arches 
project far forward above a symphysis which not only lacks a 
chin but is receding ; and finally, highly marked sexual dimor- 
phism, the females being small with rather slender jaws and 
teeth, 'the males robust with strong molars and canines. These 
various characters, in no way teratologicai, but expressing a 
well-established, well-balanced architecture, seem to suggest, ana- 
tomically, a downward convergence towards the ' simian ' world. 
All things considered, the scientist can affirm without further 
hesitation that, thanks to the double discovery of Trinil man 
and Peking man, we recognise within mankind a further morpho- 
logical rung, a further evolutionary stage and a further zoological 


They are a morphological rung because on the line separating, 
for instance, a white man from a chimpanzee, we must place them, 
by the form of their skull, almost exactly half-way ; 

They are an evolutionary stage because, whether they have 
or have not left any direct descendants in the contemporary 
world, they probably represent a type through which modern 
man must once have passed in the course of his phylogenesis ; 

Lastly, they are a zoological verticil, for, though in all appear- 
1 In present-day anthropoid apes, the cerebral capacity does not exceed 
600 c.c. 



ance narrowly localised on the farthest confines of Eastern Asia, 
this group obviously belonged to a very much bigger group 
whose nature and structure 1 shall be dealing with a little further 

In short, Pithecanthropus and Sinanthropus are far from being 
merely a couple of interesting anthropological types. Through 
them, we are able to glimpse a whole wave of mankind. 

Thus palaeontologists have once again shown their sense of 
proportion in picking out this very old and very primitive human 
layer and treating it as a distinct natural unity, to which they 
have even given a name, calling these early types the pre-hominids. 
This is an expressive and correct term from the standpoint of 
the anatomical progression of forms, but one liable to veil or 
misplace that psychic discontinuity in which we thought it 
necessary to place the very pith of hominisation. To call 
Pithecanthropus and Smanthropus pre-hominids might suggest 
that they were not yet quite man. And that, according to my 
argument, would mean they had not yet crossed the threshold of 
reflection. The contrary seems to me much more probable ; 
that, while admittedly far from having reached the level on 
which we stand, they were already, both of them, in the full 
sense of the word, intelligent beings. 

That they were so seems to me to be stipulated by the 
general mechanism of phylogenesis. A mutation as fundamental 
as that of thought, a mutation which gives its specific impetus 
to the whole human group, could not in my opinion have 
appeared in the middle of the journey ; it could not have hap- 
pened half-way up the stalk. It dominates the whole edifice. 
Its place must therefore be beneath every recognisable verticil 
in the unattainable depths of the peduncle, and thus beneath 
those creatures which (however pre-hominid in cranial structure) 
are already clearly situated above the point of origin and blossom- 
ing of our human race. 

And there is more to it than that. So far we can find no 
trace of industry associated directly with the remains of Pithe- 
canthropus. This is due to the conditions of where they lie : 



around Trinil the fossils are of bones that have been carried 

down by streams to a Jake. Near Peking, on the other hand, 

Sinanthropus has been caught in his lair, a filled-up cave littered 

with stone implements mixed with charred bones. Ought we, 

as M. Boule suggests, to see in this industry (sometimes, I admit, 

of an astonishing quality) the vestiges of another man, unknown 

to us, to whom Sinanthropus, himself not a homo fabcr, served as 

prey ? As long as no remains are found of this hypothetical man, 

1 consider the idea gratuitous and, everything considered, less 

scientific. Sinanthropus already worked stones and made fire. 

Until disproved, those two accomplishments must be considered 

on the same level as reflection, forming with it an integral part 

of the ' peduncle '. Taken together in one strand, these three 

elements crop up universally at the same time as mankind. That, 

objectively, is the situation. 

And if it is really so, we see that despite their osteological 
features so reminiscent of the anthropoids, the prc-hominids 
were psychologically much nearer to us and thus phylctically 
much less young and primitive than might have been supposed. 
It must have taken time to discover fire and the art of making 
a cutting tool— so much so that there is plenty of room for at 
least one more human verticil still lower down, which we shall 
perhaps unearth one day in Villafranchian times. 

We have already said that other hominids, at a similar stage 
of development, unquestionably lived at the same time as 
Pithecanthropus and Sinanthropus. Unfortunately we have only 
very inadequate relics of them : the famous jaw from Heidelberg 
perhaps, and the badly preserved cranium of Africanthropus 
from East Africa. This is not enough to enable us to work 
out the general physiognomy of the group. An observation 
may, however, serve to shed light indirectly on what we want 
to know. 

We now know two species of Pithecanthropus, one relatively 
small, the other much more robust and ' brutal '. To these 
must be added two other forms positively gigantic, the one from 
Java represented by the fragment of a jaw, the other from South 



China by some isolated teeth. This makes, with Sinanthropus (for 
the same period and the same continental fringe), five different 
types in all, certainly related. 

This multiplicity of related forms living closely pressed 
together in a narrow strip, and also this curious common 
tendency to gigantism, surely suggest the idea of an isolated, 
marginal, zoological offshoot mutating upon itself in an almost 
autonomous manner. And so it might seem that what was 
going on in China and Malaya may have had its equivalent 
elsewhere, in the case of other stems farther west. 

If this is so we should have to say that, zoologically speaking, 
the human group in the Lower Quaternary period still formed 
only a loosely coherent group in which the divergent structure, 
usual in animal verticils, was still dominant. 

But at the same time, doubtless in the more central regions 
of the continents, 1 the elements of a new and more compact 
wave of mankind were mustering, ready to take over from this 
archaic world. 


Geologically, after the Lower Quaternary period, the curtain 
falls. During the interval, the Trinil deposits were folded ; the 
red earth of China was carved with valleys ready to receive 
their thick coating of yellow loess ; the face of Africa was 
further fissured ; elsewhere glaciations advanced and receded. 
When the curtain rises again some sixty thousand years ago, 
and we can see the scene again, we find that the pre-hominids 
have disappeared. Their place is now occupied by the Neander- 

This new humanity is much better represented by fossil 
remains than the preceding one, because it is not only more 

1 Perhaps among the populations whose anatomical form is still unknown, 
but whose 'bi-faccd' industry can be followed in the ancient Pleistocene 
from the Cape to the Thames and from Spain to Java. 



recent, but also more numerous. Little by little the network of 
thought has extended and consolidated. 

We find both progress in number and progress in hominisa- 

With Pithecanthropus and Sinanthropus, science could still 
hesitate, wondering what sort of creature it was dealing with. 
By the Middle Quaternary period, on the other hand, except 
for a moment's hesitation at the Spy cranium or the Neanderthal 
skull, there is never any serious doubt but that we are studying 
the vestiges of members of our own race. This great development 
of the brain, this industry of the caves, and for the first time those 
incontestable cases of burial— everything goes to show that we 
are in the presence of true man. 

We have true man, then— but man who was not yet pre- 
cisely us. 

We fmd his cranium generally elongated, a low forehead, 
thick, prominent orbital ridges, a still noticeable prognathism 
of the face, as a rule the absence of canine fossae, absence of 
chin, large teeth without any distinct neck between crown and 
root. Confronted with these different features, no anthropolo- 
gist could fail to recognise at a glance the fossil remains of a 
European Neandcrthaloid. No people on earth today could be 
confused with him, not even an Australian Aborigine or an 
Aino. The advance from Trinil or Peking man is, as I have said, 
manifest ; but the gulf in relation to modern man is hardly 
less. Accordingly we have now another rung on the morpho- 
logical ladder, another evolutionary stage. And in conformity 
with the laws of phylogenesis we must inevitably suspect another 
zoological verticil here, whose reality has not ceased to assert 
itself in pre-history in the last few years. When the first Mous- 
terian crania were discovered in Western Europe, and when it 
became dear that these bones had not belonged cither to idiots 
or degenerates, anatomists were naturally led to imagine that 
in the Middle Palaeolithic age the earth was peopled by men 
corresponding exactly to the Neanderthal type. Whence a 
certain disappointment, perhaps, when fresh discoveries, more 



and more numerous, failed to confirm this simple hypothesis. 
Actually the diversity of the Neanderthaloids, year by year more 
apparent, is precisely what we ought to have expected. For we can 
now see it is that very diversity which definitely gives to their 
' bundle ' its interest and its true physiognomy. 

Of the forms called Neanderthaloids, our science today 
recognises two distinct groups at different levels of phyletic 
evolution, a group of terminal forms and an infant group : 

a. The terminal group. Survivors, gradually dying out, of the 
more or less autonomous offshoots which probably composed 
the pre-hominid verticil — Solo man of Java, a direct and scarcely 
changed descendant of Trinil man, 1 in Africa the extraordinarily 
brutal Rhodesian man and, in Europe, unless I am mistaken, 
Neanderthal man himself who, in spite of his remarkable and 
persistent distribution over the whole of Western Europe, seems 
really to represent nothing but the last florescence of a dying stock. 

b. The infant group. A nebulous, not easily distinguishable 
group of pseudo-Neanderthaloids with primitive features, but 
definitely modernised or modernisable — a rounder head, less 
prominent orbital ridges, canine fossae better marked, sometimes 
the beginning of a chin : such are Steinhcim man and the finds 
in Palestine. They arc incontestably Neanderthaloids, but they 
are ever so much nearer to us ; a progressive branch, sleeping, 
one might say, waiting for the coming dawn. 

So let us put this triple ' bundle ' in its proper light, geo- 
graphically and morphologically. Far from being a disconcerting 
combination, the pattern is familiar. Leaves which have just 
fallen ; leaves still alive but beginning to turn yellow ; leaves 
not yet opened but full of vigour ; the complete section, almost 
an ideal one, of zoological ramification. 

1 Found in number in the horizontal terraces levelling the folded beds at 
Trinil, homo soloensis seems to have been simply a big Pithecanthropus with a 
more rounded cranium. This is an almost unique case in palaeontology, ot one 
and the same phylum seen at the same place, across a geological discordance, 
at two different stages of its development. 




One of the great surprises of botany is to see at the beginning 
of the Cretaceous period the world of cycads and conifers 
abruptly submerged and replaced by a forest of angiosperms, 
plane trees, oaks, etc., the bulk of modern forms bursting ready- 
made on the Jurassic flora from some unknown region of the 
globe. No less is the anthropologist bewildered when he discovers, 
superimposed upon each other, hardly separated in the caves 
by a floor of stalagmites, Mousterian man and Cromagnon man 
or Aurignacian man. Here there is hardly any geological hiatus 
at all, yet none the less we find a fundamental rejuvenation of 
mankind. We fuid the sudden invasion of Homo sapiens, driven 
by climate or the restlessness of his soul, sweeping over the Nean- 

Where did he come from, this new man ? Some anthropo- 
logists would like to see in him the culmination of certain lines 
of development already pin-pointed in earlier epochs— a direct 
descendant, for example, of Sinanthropus. For definite technical 
reasons, however, and still more because of overall analogies, 
it is better to view things in another way. Without doubt, 
somewhere or other and in his oivn way, Upper Palaeolithic man 
must have passed through a prc-hominid phase and then through 
a Neanderthaloid one. But, like the mammals, the trituberculates, 
and all the other phyla, he disappears from our field of vision 
in the course of his (possibly accelerated) embryogencsis. We 
find imbrication and replacement rather than continuity and 
prolongation : the law of succession once again dominates history. 
I can thus easily picture the new-comer as the scion of an autono- 
mous line of evolution, long hidden though secretly active— to 
emerge triumphantly one fine day doubdess in the midst of those 
pseudo-Neanderthaloids whose vital and probably very ancient 
' bundle ' we have already mentioned. But at any rate, one thing 
is certain and admitted by everybody. The man we find on the 



face of the earth at the end of the Quaternary period is already 
modern man — and in every way. 

First of all anatomically without any possible doubt. We 
see it in his high forehead with reduced orbits ; in his well- 
rounded parietal bones ; in his weak occipital crest now below 
his swelling brain ; in his slight jaw with its prominent chin — 
all these features, so well marked in the last cave-dwellers, are 
definitely our own. So clearly are they ours that, from this 
moment onwards, the palaeontologist, accustomed to working 
on pronounced morphological differences, no longer finds it 
easy to distinguish between the remains of these fossil men and 
men today. For that subtle task their over-all methods and 
visual sizing-up are no longer adequate, and they must now 
have recourse to the most delicate techniques (and audacities) 
of anthropology. We arc no longer dealing with the recon- 
struction on general lines of the mounting horizons of life, but 
■with the analysis of the overlapping nuances making up our fore- 
ground. Thirty thousand years. A long period measured in 
terms of our lifetime, but it is a mere second for evolution. 
From the osteological point of view there is during this interval 
no appreciable breach of continuity in the human phylum. It 
might even be said that there is, up to a point, no major change 
in the progress of its somatic ramification. 

And this is where we get our greatest surprise. In itself, it is 
only very natural that the stem of Homo sapiens fossilis, studied at 
its point of emergence, far from being simple, should display in 
the composition and divergence of its fibres the complex structure 
of a fan. This is, as we know, the initial condition of each phylum 
on the tree of life. At the very least we should have counted on 
finding, in those depths, a cluster of relatively primitive and 
generalised forms, something antecedent in form to our present 
races. And what we fmd is rather the opposite. Assuming one 
can trust bones to give us an idea of flesh and blood, what were in 
fact those first representatives, in the age ot the reindeer, of a 
new human verticil freshly opening ? Nothing more or less 
than what we see living today in approximately the same 



regions of the earth. Negroes, white men and yellow men 
(or at the most pre-negro, pre-white and pre-yellow), and those 
various groups already for the most part settled to north, to 
south, to east, to west, in their present geographical zones. That 
is what we find all over the ancient world from Europe to China 
at the end of the last Ice Age. Accordingly when we study Upper 
Palaeolithic man, not only in the essential features of his anatomy 
but also in the main lines of his ethnography, it is really ourselves 
and our own infancy that we are finding, not only the skeleton 
of modern man already there, but the framework of modem 
humanity. We see the same general bodily form ; the same 
fundamental distribution of races ; the same tendency (at least in 
outline) for the ethnic groups to join up together in a coherent 
system, over-riding all divergence. And (how could it fail to 
follow?) the same essential aspirations in the depths of their soul. 
Among the Neanderthaloids, as we have seen, a psychic 
advance was manifest, shown amongst other signs by the presence 
in the caves of the first graves. Even to the more brutal Neander- 
thals, everyone is prepared to grant the flame of a genuine 
intelligence. Most of it, however, seems to have been used up 
in the sheer effort to survive and reproduce. If there was any 
left over, we see no signs of it or fail to recognise them. What 
went on in the minds of those distant cousins of ours ? We 
have no idea. But in the age of the reindeer, with homo sapiens, 
it is a definitely liberated thought which explodes, still warm, 
on to the walls of the caves. Within them, these new-comers 
brought art, an art still naturalistic but prodigiously accom- 
plished. And thanks to the language of this art, we can for the 
first time enter right into the consciousness of these vanished 
beings whose bones we put together. There is a strange spiritual 
nearness, even in detail. Those rites expressed in red and black 
on the walls of caves in Spain, in the Pyrenees and Pengord, 
are after all still practised under our eyes in Africa, in Oceania, 
and even in America. What difference is there, for example, 
between the sorcerer of the Trois-Freres Cave dressed up in 
his deerskin, and some oceanic god ? But that's not the most 



important point. We could make mistakes in interpreting in 
modern terms the prints of hands, the bewitched bisons, and 
the fertility symbols which give expression to the preoccupation 
and religion of an Aurignacian or a Magdalenian man. Where 
we could not be mistaken is in perceiving in the artists of those 
distant ages a power of observation, a love of fantasy, and a joy 
in creation (manifest as much in the perfection of movement 
and outline as in the spontaneous play of chiselled ornament) 
— these ilowers of a consciousness not merely reflecting upon 
itself, but rejoicing in so doing. So the examination of skeletons 
and skulls has not led us astray. In the Upper Quaternary 
period it is indeed and in the fullest sense present-day man 
at whom we are looking, not yet adult, admittedly, but having 
nevertheless reached the ' age of reason '. And when we compare 
him to ourselves, his brain is already perfect, so perfect that 
since that time there seems to have been no measurable variation 
or increased perfection in the organic instrument of our thought. 

Are we to say, then, that the evolution in man ceased widi 
the end of the Quaternary era ? 

Not at all. But, without prejudice to what may still be 
developing slowly and secretly in the depths of the nervous 
system, evolution has since that date overtly overflowed its 
anatomical modalities to spread, or perhaps even to transplant 
its main thrust into the zones of psychic spontaneity both indivi- 
dual and collective. 

Henceforward it is in that form almost exclusively that we 
shall be recognising it and following its course. 


Throughout living phyla, at all events among the higher animals 
where wc can follow the process more easily, social development 
is a progress that comes relatively late. It is an achievement of 
maturity. In man, for reasons closely connected with his power 
of reflection, this transformation is accelerated. As far back 



as we can meet them, our great-great-ancestors are to be found 
in groups and gathered round the fire. 

Definite as may be the signs of association at those remote 
periods, the whole phenomenon is far from being clearly out- 
lined. Even in the Upper Palaeolithic era, the peoples we meet 
with seem to have constituted no more tlian loosely bound 
groups of wandering hunters. It was only in the Neolithic age 
that the great cementing of human elements began which was 
never thenceforward to stop. The Neolithic age, disdained by 
pre-historians because it is too young, neglected by historians 
because its phases cannot be exactly dated, was nevertheless a 
critical age and one of solemn importance among all the epochs 
of the past, for in it Civilisation was born. 

Under what conditions did that birth take place ? Once 
again, and always in conformity with the laws regulating our 
vision of time in retrospect, we do not know. A few years ago 
it was usual to speak of a ' great gap ' between the last levels of 
chipped stone and the earliest levels of polished stone and pottery. 
Since then a series of intercalated horizons, better defmed, have 
little by little brought together the verges of this gap, yet 
essentially the gulf still persists. Did it come from a play of 
migrations, or was it the effect of contagion ? Was it due to the 
sudden arrival of some ethnic wave, which had been silently 
assembling in some other and more fertile region of the globe, 
or the irresistible propagation of fruitful innovations ? Did 
the emphasis he on a movement of peoples or primarily on a 
movement of cultures ? We should find it hard, as yet, to say. 
What is certain is that, after a gap geologically negligible, but 
long enough nevertheless for the selection and domestication of all 
the animals and plants on which we are still living today, we find 
sedentary and socially organised men in place of the nomadic 
hunters of the horse and the reindeer. In a matter of ten or 
twenty thousand years man divided up the earth and struck 
his roots in it. 

In this decisive period of socialisation, as previously at the 
instant of reflection, a cluster of partially independent factors 



seems to have mysteriously converged to favour and even to 
force the pace of hominisation. Let us try to sort them out. 

First of all come the incessant advances of multiplication. 
With the rapidly growing number of individuals the available 
land diminished. The groups pressed against one another. As 
a result migrations were on a smaller scale. The problem now 
was how to get the most out of ever more diminishing land, 
and we can well imagine that under pressure of this necessity 
the idea was born of conserving and reproducing on the spot 
what had hitherto been sought for and pursued far and wide. 
Agriculture and stock-breeding, the husbandman and the herds- 
man, replaced mere gathering and hunting. 

From that fundamental change all the rest followed. In the 
growing agglomerations the complex of rights and duties began 
to appear, leading to the invention of all sorts of communal 
and juridical structures whose vestiges we can still see today in 
the shadow of the great civilisations among the least progressive 
populations of the world. In regard to property, morals and 
marriage, every possible social form seems to have been tried. 

Simultaneously, in the more stable and more densely popu- 
lated environment created by the first farms, the need and the 
taste for research were stimulated and became more methodical. 
It was a marvellous period of investigation and invention when, 
in the unequalled freshness of a new beginning, the eternal 
groping of life burst out in conscious reflection. Everything 
possible seems to have been attempted in this extraordinary 
period : the selection and empirical improvement of fruits, 
cereals, live-stock ; the science of pottery ; and weaving. Very 
soon followed the first elements of pictographic writing, and 
soon the first beginnings of metallurgy. 

Then, in virtue of all this, consolidated on itself and better 
equipped for conquest, mankind could fling its final waves in 
the assault on those positions which had not yet fallen to it. 
Henceforward it was in the full flush of expansion. It was in 
fact at the dawn of the Neolithic age that man reached America 
(passing through an Alaska free of ice and perhaps by other ways) 



there to start again — on new material and at the cost of new 
efforts — his patient work of installation and domestication. 
Among them were many hunters and fishers still living a more 
or less Palaeolithic life despite their pottery and polished stone. 
But beside them were genuine tillers of the soil — the maize 
eaters. And at the same time, no doubt, another layer began to 
spread whose long trail is still marked by the presence of banana 
trees, mango trees and coconut palms — the fabulous adventure 
across the Pacific. 

At the end of this metamorphosis (whose existence, once 
again, we can only just infer from the results) die world was 
practically covered with a population whose remains — polished 
stone implements, mill stones and shards, found under recent 
humus or sand deposits — litter the old earth of the continents. 

Mankind was of course still very much split up. To get an 
idea of it, we must think of what the first white men found in 
America or Africa — a veritable mosaic of groups, profoundly 
different both ethnically and socially. 

But mankind was already outlined and linked up. Since the 
age of the reindeer the peoples had been little by little finding 
their definitive place, even in matters of detail. Between them 
exchanges increased in the commerce of objects and the trans- 
mission of ideas. Traditions became organised and a collective 
memory was developed. Slender and granular as this first 
membrane might be, the noosphere there and then began to 
close in upon itself — and to encircle the earth. 



We have retained the habit, come down to us from the days 
when human palaeontology did not exist, of isolating that par- 
ticular slice of six thousand years or so for which we possess 
written or dated documents. This for us is History, as opposed 



to pre-History. In reality, however, there is no breach of con- 
tinuity between the two. The better we get the past into 
perspective, the more clearly we see that the periods called 
' historic ' (right down to and including the beginning of 
' modern ' times) are nothing else than direct prolongations of 
the Neolithic age. Of course, as we shall point out, there was 
increasing complexity and differentiation, but essentially follow- 
ing the same lines and on the same plane. 

From the biological point of view — which is the one we 
are taking — how shall we define and represent the progress of 
hominisation in the course of this period, so short yet so pro- 
digiously fruitful ? 

Essentially, what history records among the welter of 
institutions, peoples and empires, is the normal expansion of 
Homo sapiens at the heart of the social atmosphere created by 
the Neolithic transformation. We find a gradual falling away 
of the oldest ' splinters ' some of which, like the Australian 
aborigines, still adhere to the extreme fringe of our civilisation 
and our continents ; on die other hand we find accentuation 
and domination of certain other stems, more central and more 
vigorous, which attempt to monopolise the land and the light. 
Here and there we find disappearances causing a thinning-out, 
here and there some fresh buddings which make the foliage 
more dense. Some branches wither, some sleep, some shoot up 
and spread everywhere. We find endless interlacing of ramifi- 
cations, none of which allow their peduncles to be seen clearly, 
not even at a mere two thousand years back ; in other words the 
whole series of cases, situations and appearances usually met 
with in any phylum in a state of active proliferation. 

Nor is this quite all. We might suppose that, after the 
Neolithic age, what constituted the extreme difficulty, but also 
the exceptional interest, of human phylogenesis was the proximity 
of the facts, allowing us to follow with the naked eye, as it were, 
the biological mechanism of the ramification of the species. In 
fact, something more than that happens. 

So long as science had to deal only with pre-historic human 



groups, more or less isolated and to a greater or less extent 
undergoing anthropological formation, the general rules of 
animal phylogenesis were still approximately valid. From 
Neolithic times onwards the influence of psychical factors 
begins to outweigh — and by far— the variations of ever-dwindling 
somatic factors. And henceforward the foreground is taken up 
by the two series of effects we announced above when describing 
the main lines of hominisation — (i) the apparition above the 
genealogical verticils of political and cultural units ; a complex 
scale of groupings which, on the multiple planes of geographical 
distribution, economic links, religious beliefs and social institu- 
tions, have proved capable, after submerging ' the race ', of 
reacting between themselves in every proportion ; and simul- 
taneously (ii) the manifestation — between these branches of a 
new kind — of the forces of coalescence (anastomoses, confluences) 
liberated in each one by the individualisation of psychological 
sheath, or more precisely of an axis — a whole conjugated play of 
divergences and convergences. 

There is no need for me to emphasise the reality, diversity 
and continual germination of human collective unities, at any 
rate potentially divergent ; such as the birth, multiplication and 
evolution of nations, states and civilisations. We see the spec- 
tacle on every hand, its vicissitudes fdl the annals of the peoples. 
But there is one thing that must not be forgotten if we want to 
enter into and appreciate the drama. However hominised the 
events, the history of mankind in this rationalised form really 
does prolong — though in its own way and degree — the organic 
movements of life. It is still natural history through the pheno- 
mena of social ramification that it relates. 

Much more subtle and fraught with biological potentialities 
are the phenomena of confluence. Let us try to follow them in 
their mechanism and their consequences. 

Between animal branches or phyla of low ' psychical ' 
endowment, reactions are limited to competition and eventually 
to elimination. The stronger supplants the weaker and ends by 
stifling it. The only exceptions to this brutal, almost mechanical 



law of substitution are those (mostly functional) associations of 
' symbiosis ' inferior organisms — or with the most socialised 
insects, the enslavement of one group by another. 

With man (at all events with Post-Neolithic man) simple 
elimination tends to become exceptional, or at all events second- 
ary. However brutal the conquest, the suppression is always 
accompanied by some degree of assimilation. Even when 
partially absorbed, the vanquished still reacts on the victor so 
as to transform him. There is, as the geologists call the process, 
endomorphosis — especially in the case of a peaceful cultural 
invasion, and yet still more with populations, equally resistant 
and active, which interpenetrate slowly under prolonged tension. 
What happens then is mutual permeation of the psychisms com- 
bined with a remarkable and significant interfecundity. Under 
this two-fold influence, veritable biological combinations are 
established and fixed which shuffle and blend ethnic traditions 
at the same time as cerebral genes. Formerly, on the tree of life 
we had a mere tangle of stems ; now over the whole domain 
of Homo sapiens we have synthesis. 

But of course we do not find this everywhere to the same 

Because of the haphazard configuration of continents on the 
earth, some regions are more favourable than others for the 
concourse and mixing of races — extended archipelagoes, junctions 
of valleys, vast cultivable plains, particularly, irrigated by a 
great river. In such privileged places there has been a natural 
tendency ever since the installation of settled life for the human 
mass to concentrate, to fuse, and for its temperature to rise. 
Whence the no doubt ' congenital ' appearance on the Neolithic 
layer of certain foci of attraction and organisation, the prelude 
and presage of some new and superior state for the noosphere. 
Five of these foci, of varying remoteness in the past, can easily 
be picked out — Central America, with its Maya civilisation ; 
the South Seas, with Polynesian civilisation ; the basin of 
Yellow River, with Chinese civilisation ; the valleys of the 
Ganges and the Indus, with Indian civilisation ; and lastly the 



Nile Valley and Mesopotamia with Egyptian and Sumerian 
civilisation. The last three foci may have first appeared almost 
at the same period, the first two were much later. But they were 
all largely independent of one another, each struggling blindly 
to spread and ramify, as though it were alone destined to absorb 
and transform the earth. 

Basically can we not say that the essential diing in history 
consists in the conflict and finally the gradual harmonisation of 
these great psycho-somatic currents ? 

In fact this struggle for influence was quickly localised. The 
Maya centre which was too isolated in the New World, and 
the Polynesian centre which was too dispersed on the mono- 
tonous dust of its distant islands, soon met their respective fates, 
one being completely extinguished and the other radiating in 
a vacuum. So finally the contest for the future of the world 
was fought out by the agricultural plain dwellers of Asia and 
North Africa. One or two thousand years before our era the 
odds between them may have seemed fairly equal. But we 
today, in the light of events, can sec that even at that stage 
there were the seeds of weakness in two of the contestants in 
the East. 

Either by its own genius or as an effect of immensity, China 
(and I mean the old China, of course) lacked both the inclination 
and the impetus for deep renovation. A singular spectacle is 
presented by this gigantic country which only yesterday repre- 
sented — still living under our eyes — a scarcely changed fragment 
of the world as it could have been ten thousand years ago. The 
population was not only fundamentally agricultural but essentially 
organised according to the hierarchy of territorial possessions — 
the emperor being nothing more than the biggest proprietor. 
It was a population ultra-specialised in brick work, pottery and 
bronze, a population carrying to the lengths of superstition the 
study of pictograms and the science of the constellations ; an 
incredibly refined civilisation, admittedly, but unchanged as to 
method since its beginning, like the writing which betrays the 
fact so ingenuously. Well into the nineteenth century it was 



still Neolithic, not rejuvenated, as elsewhere, but simply inter- 
minably complicated in on itself, not merely continuing on the 
same lines, but remaining on the same level, as though unable 
to life itself above the soil where it was formed. 

And while China, already encrusted in its soil, multiplied 
its gropings and discoveries without ever taking the trouble to 
build up a science of physics, India allowed itself to be drawn 
into metaphysics, only to become lost there. India — the region 
par excellence of high philosophic and religious pressures : we 
can never make too much of our indebtedness to the mystic 
influences which have come down to each and all of us in the 
past from this ' anticyclone '. But however efficacious these 
currents for ventilating and illuminating the atmosphere of 
mankind, we have to recognise that, with their excessive passivity 
and detachment, they were incapable of building the world. 
The primitive soul of India arose in its hour like a great wind 
but, like a great wind also, again in its hour, it passed away. 
How indeed could it have been otherwise ? Phenomena regarded 
as an illusion (Maya) and their connections as a chain (Karma), 
what was left in these doctrines to aiumate and direct human 
evolution ? A simple mistake was made — but it was enough — 
in the definition of the spirit and in the appreciation of the 
bonds which attach it to the sublimations of matter. 

Then step by step we are driven nearer to the more western 
zones of the world — to the Euphrates, the Nile, the Mediter- 
ranean — where an exceptional concurrence of places and peoples 
was, in the course of a few thousand years, to produce that happy 
blend, thanks to which reason could be harnessed to facts and 
religion to action. And this without losing any of their up- 
ward thrust — in fact quite the contrary. Mesopotamia, Egypt, 
Greece — with Rome soon to be added — and above all the 
mysterious Judaeo-Christian ferment which gave Europe its 
spiritual form. But I shall be coming back to that at the end of 
this book. 

It is easy for the pessimist to reduce this extraordinary period 
to a number of civilisations which have fallen into ruins one after 



the other. Is it not far more scientific to recognise, yet once again, 
beneath these successive oscillations, the great spiral of life : 
thrusting up, irreversibly, in relays, following the master-line 
of its evolution ? Susa, Memphis and Athens can crumble. 
An ever more highly organised consciousness of the universe 
is passed from hand to hand, and glows steadily brighter. 

Later on, when I come to speak of the current planetisation 
of the noosphere, I shall try to restore to the other fragments of 
mankind the great and essential part reserved for them in the 
expected plenitude of the earth. At this point of our investiga- 
tion, we would be allowing sentiment to falsify the facts if we 
failed to recognise that during historic time the principal axis 
of anthropogenesis has passed through the West. It is in this 
ardent zone of growth and universal recasting that all that goes 
to make man today has been discovered, or at any rate must 
have been rediscovered. For even that which had long been known 
elsewhere only took on its definitive human value in becoming 
incorporated in the system of European ideas and activities. It 
is not in any way naive to hail as a great event the discovery by 
Columbus of America. 

In truth, a neo-humanity has been germinating round the 
Mediterranean during the last six thousand years, and precisely 
at this moment it has finished absorbing the last vestiges of the 
Neolithic mosaic; thus starts the budding of another layer on the 
noosphere, and the densest of all. 

The proof of this lies in the fact that from one end of the 
world to the other, all the peoples, to remain human or to 
become more so, are inexorably led to formulate the hopes and 
problems of the modern earth in the very same terms in which 
the West has formulated them. 




A Change of Age 

In every epoch man has thought himself at a ' turning-point 
of history '. And to a certain extent, as he is advancing on a 
rising spiral, he has not been wrong. But there are moments 
when this impression of transformation becomes accentuated 
and is thus particularly justified. And we are certainly not 
exaggerating the importance of our contemporary existences in 
estimating that, upon them, a turn of profound importance is 
taking place in the world which may even crush them. 

When did this turn begin ? It is naturally impossible to say 
exactly. Like a great ship, the human mass only changes its 
course gradually, so much so that we can put far back — at least 
as far as the Renaissance — the first vibrations which indicate the 
change of route. It is clear, at any rate, that at the end of the 
eighteenth century the course had been changed in the West. 
Since then, in spite of our occasional obstinacy in pretending 
that we are the same, we have in fact entered a different world. 

Firstly, economic changes. Advanced as it was in many 
ways two centuries ago, our civilisation was still based funda- 
mentally on the soil and its partition. The type of ' real ' pro- 
perty, the nucleus of the family, the prototype of the state (and 
even the universe) was still, as in the earliest days of society, the 
arable field, the territorial basis. Then, little by little, as a result 
of the ' dynamisation ' of money, property has evaporated into 
something fluid and impersonal, so mobile that already the 



wealth of nations themselves has almost nothing in common with 
their frontiers. 

Secondly, industrial changes. Up to the eighteenth century, 
in spite of the many improvements made, there was still only 
one known source of chemical energy — fire. And there was 
only one sort of mechanical energy employed — muscle, human 
or animal, multiplied by the machine. 

Lastly, social changes and the awakening of the masses. 

Merely from looking at these external signs wc can hardly 
fail to suspect that the great unrest which has pervaded our life 
in the West ever since the storm of the French Revolution springs 
from a nobler and deeper cause than the difficulties of a world 
seeking to recover some ancient equilibrium that it has lost. 
There is no question of shipwreck. What wc are up against is 
the heavy swell of an unknown sea which we are just entering 
from behind the cape that protected us. What is troubling us 
intellectually, politicaUy and even spiritually is something quite 
simple. With his customary acute intuition, Henri Breuil said 
to me one day: ' We have only just cast off the last moorings 
which held us to the Neolithic age.' The formula is paradoxical 
but illuminating. In fact the more I have thought over these 
words, the more inclined I have been to think that Breuil was 

We are, at this very moment, passing through a change of age. 

The age of industry ; the age of oil, electricity and the atom ; 
the age of the machine, of huge collectivities and of science — 
the future will decide what is the best name to describe the era 
we are entering. The word matters little. What does matter is 
that wc should be told that, at the cost of what we arc enduring, 
life is taking a step, and a decisive step, in us and in our environ- 
ment. After the long maturation that has been steadily going 
on during the apparent immobility of the agricultural centuries, 
the hour has come at last, characterised by the birth pangs 
inevitable in another change of state. There were the first men — 
those who witnessed our origin. There are others who will 
witness the great scenes of the end. To us, in our brief span of 



life, falls the honour and good fortune of coinciding with a 
critical change of the noosphere. 

In these confused and restless zones in which present blends 
with future in a world of upheaval, we stand face to face with 
all the grandeur, the unprecendented grandeur, of the pheno- 
menon of man. Here if anywhere, now if ever, have we, more 
legitimately than any of our predecessors, the right to think 
that we can measure the importance and detect the direction of 
the process of hominisation. Let us look carefully and try to 
understand. And to do so let us probe beneath the surface and 
try to decipher the particular form of mind which is coming 
to birth in the womb of the earth today. 

Our earth of factory chimneys and offices, seething with 
work and business, our earth with a hundred new radiations 
— this great organism lives, in fmal analysis, only because of, and 
for the sake of, a new soul. Beneath a change of age lies a change 
of thought. Where arc we to look for it, where arc we to 
situate this renovating and subtle alteration which, without 
appreciably changing our bodies, has made new creatures of 
us ? In one place and one only — in a new intuition involving a 
total change in the physiognomy of the universe in which we 
move — in other words, in an awakening. 

What has made us in four or five generations so different 
from our forebears (in spite of all that may be said), so ambitious 
too, and so worried, is not merely that wc have discovered and 
mastered other forces of nature. In final analysis it is, if I am 
not mistaken, that we have become conscious of the movement 
which is carrying us along, and have thereby realised the for- 
midable problems set us by this reflective exercise of the human 



A. The Perception of Space-time 1 

We have all forgotten the moment when, opening our eyes for 
the first time, we saw light and things around us all jumbled 
up and all on one single plane. It requires a great effort to 
imagine the time when we were unable to read or again to take 
our minds back to the time when for us the world extended 
no farther than the walls of our home and our family circle. 

Similarly it seems to us incredible that men could have lived 
without suspecting that the stars are hung above us hundreds of 
light years away, or that the contours of life stretched out 
millions of years behind us to the limits of our horizon. Yet 
we have only to open any of those books with barely yellowing 
pages in which the authors of the sixteenth, or even as late as 
the eighteenth, century discoursed on the structure of worlds to 
be startled by the fact that our great-great-great-grandfathers 
felt perfectly at ease in a cubic space where the stars turned round 
the earth, and had been doing so for less than 6,000 years. In a 
cosmic atmosphere which would suffocate us from the first 
moment, and in perspectives in which it is physically impossible 
for us to enter, they breathed without any inconvenience, if not 
very deeply. 

Between them and us what, then, has happened ? 

I know of no more moving story nor any more revealing of 
the biological reality of a noogenesis than that of intelligence 
struggling step by step from the beginning to overcome the 
encircling illusion of proximity. 

In the course of this struggle to master the dimensions and 
the relief of the universe, space was the first to yield — naturally, 
because it was more tangible. In fact the first hurdle was taken 
in this field when long, long ago a man (some Greek, no doubt, 
before Aristotle), bending back on itself the apparent flatness of 
p Cf. Collingwood, Idea of Nature (O.U.P. 1944) passim] 



things, had an intuition that there were antipodes. From then 
onwards round the round earth the firmament itself rolled 
roundly. But the focus of the spheres was badly placed. By 
its situation it incurably paralysed the elasticity of the system. 
It was only really in the time of Galileo, through rupture with 
the ancient geocentric view, that the skies were made free for 
the boundless expansions which we have since detected in them. 
The earth became a mere speck of sidereal dust. Immensity 
became possible, and to balance it the infinitesimal sprang into 

For lack of apparent yardsticks, the depths of the past took 
much longer to be plumbed. The movement of stars, the shape 
of mountains, the chemical nature of bodies — indeed all matter 
seemed to express a continual present. The physics of the 
seventeenth century was incapable of opening Pascal's eyes to 
the abysses of the past. To discover the real age of the earth 
and then of the elements, it was necessary for man to become 
fortuitously interested in an object of moderate mobility, such 
as life, for instance, or even volcanoes. It was thus through a 
narrow crack (that of natural history ', then in its infancy) that 
from the eighteenth century onwards light began to seep down 
into the great depths beneath our feet. In these initial estimates, 
the time considered necessary for the formation of the world 
was still very modest. But at least the impetus had been given 
and the way out opened up. After the walls of space, shaken 
by the Renaissance, it was the floor (and consequently the 
ceiling) of time which, from Buffon onwards, became mobile. 
Since then, under the unceasing pressure of facts, the process 
has continually accelerated. Although the strain has been taken 
off for close on two hundred years, the spirals of the world have 
still not been relaxed. The distance between the turns in the spiral 
has seemed ever greater and there have always been further turns 
appearing deeper still. 

Yet in these first stages in man's awakening to the immensi- 
ties of the cosmos, space and time, however vast, still remained 
homogeneous and independent of each other ; they were two 



great containers, quite separate one from the other, extending 
infinitely no doubt, but in which things floated about or were 
packed together in ways owing nothing to the nature of their 


The two compartments had been enlarged beyond measure, 
but within each of them the objects seemed as freely transpose 
as before. It seemed as if they could be placed here or there, 
moved forward, pushed back or even suppressed at will. If no-one 
ventured formally as far as this play of thought, at least there was 
still no clear idea why or to what extent it was impossible. 
This was a question which did not arise. 

It was only in the middle of the nineteenth century, again 
under the influence of biology, that the light dawned at last, 
revealing the irreversible coherence of all that exists. First the 
concatenations of life and, soon after, those of matter The least 
molecule is, in nature and in position, a function of the whole 
sidereal process, and the least of the protozoa is structurally so 
knit into the web of life that its existence cannot be hypothctically 
annihilated without ipso facto undoing the whole network of the 
biosphere. The distribution, succession and solidarity of objects 
are bom from their concrescence iu a common genesis. Time and space 
are organically joined again so as to weave, together, the stuff 
of the universe. That is the point we have reached and how we 
perceive things today. 

Psychologically what is hidden behind this initiation ? One 
might well become impatient or lose heart at the sight of so 
many minds (and not mediocre ones either) remaining today 
still closed to idea of evolution, if the whole of history were 
not there to pledge to us that a truth once seen, even by a single 
mind, always ends up by imposing itself on the totality of human 
consciousness. For many, evolution is still only transformism, 
and transformism is only an old Darwinian hypothesis as local 
and as dated as Laplace's conception of the solar system or 
Wegener's Theory of Continental Drift. Blind indeed are those 
who do not see the sweep of a movement whose orbit infinitely 
transcends the natural sciences and has successively invaded and 



conquered the surrounding territory — chemistry, physics, socio- 
logy and even mathematics and the history of religions. One 
after the other all the fields of human knowledge have been 
shaken and carried away by the same under-watcr current in 
the direction of the study of some development. Is evolution a 
theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general 
condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must 
bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be 
thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a 
curve that all lines must follow. 

In the last century and a half the most prodigious event, 
perhaps, ever recorded by history since the threshold of reflection 
has been taking place in our minds : the definitive access of 
consciousness to a scale of new dimensions ; and in consequence 
the birth of an entirely renewed universe, without any change 
of line or feature by the simple transformation of its intimate 

Until that time the world seemed to rest, static and fragment- 
able, on the three axes of its geometry. Now it is a casting from 
a single mould. 

What makes and classifies a ' modern ' man (and a whole 
host of our contemporaries is not yet ' modern ' in this sense) 
is having become capable of seeing in terms not of space and 
time alone, but also of duration, or — it comes to the same 
thing — of biological space-time ; and above all having become 
incapable of seeing anything otherwise — anything — not even 

This last step brings us to the heart of the metamorphosis. 

b. The Envelopment in Duration 

Obviously man could not see evolution all around him without 
feeling to some extent carried along by it himself. Darwin has 
demonstrated this. Nevertheless, looking at the progress of 
transformist views in the last hundred years, we are surprised 



to see how naively naturalists and physicists were able at the 
early stages to imagine themselves to be standing outside the 
universal stream they had just discovered. Almost incurably 
subject and object tend to become separated from each other in 
the act of knowing. We are continually inclined to isolate our- 
selves from the things and events which surround us, as though 
we were looking at them from outside, from the shelter of an 
observatory into which they were unable to enter, as though 
we were spectators, not elements, in what goes on. That is why, 
when it was raised by the concatenations of life, the question of 
man's origins was for so long restricted to the purely somatic 
and bodily side. A long animal heredity might well have formed 
our limbs, but our mind was always above the play of which it 
kept the score. However materialistic they might be, it did not 
occur to the first evolutionists that their scientific intelligence 
had anything to do in itself with evolution. 

At this stage they were only half-way to the truth they had 

discovered. . 

From the very first pages of this book, 1 have been relentlessly 
insisting on one thing : for invincible reasons of homogeneity 
and coherence, the fibres of cosmogenesis demand their pro- 
longation in us in a way that goes far deeper than flesh and blood. 
We are not only set adrift and carried away in the current of life 
by the material surface of our being ; but, like a subtle fluid, 
space-time first drowns our bodies and then penetrates to our 
soul ; it fills it and impregnates it ; it blends itself with the 
soul's potentialities to such an extent that soon the soul no 
longer knows how to distinguish space-time from its own 
thoughts. To those who can use their eyes nothing, not even at 
the summit of our being, can escape this flux any longer, because 
it is only definable in increase of consciousness. The very act by 
which the fine edge of our minds penetrates the absolute is a 
phenomenon, as it were, of emergence. In short, first recognised 
only at a single point, then perforce extended to the whole 
inorganic and organic volume of matter, evolution is now, 
whether we like it or not, gaining the psychic zones of the world 



and transferring to the spiritual constructions of life not only the 
cosmic stuff but also the cosmic ' primacy ' hitherto reserved by 
science to the tangled whirlwind of the ancient ' ether'. 

How indeed could we incorporate thought into the organic 
flux of space-time without being forced to grant it the first place 
in the processus ? How could we imagine a cosmogenesis 
reaching right up to mind without being thereby confronted 
with a noogenesis ? 

Thus we see not only thought as participating in evolution 
as an anomaly or as an epiphenomenon ; but evolution as so 
reducible to and identifiable with a progress towards thought 
that the movement of our souls expresses and measures the very 
stages of progress of evolution itself. Man discovers that he is 
nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself, to borrow 
Julian Huxley's striking expression. It seems to me that our 
modern minds (because and inasmuch as they are modern) 
will never find rest until they settle down to this view. On 
this summit and on this summit alone are repose and illumination 
waiting for us. 

c. The Illumination 

The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself 
and reflecting upon itself. 

With that very simple view, destined, as I suppose, to become 
as instinctive and familiar to our descendants as the discovery 
of a third dimension in space is to a baby, a new light — inex- 
haustibly harmonious — bursts upon the world, radiating from 

Step by step, from the early earth onwards, we have followed 
going upwards the successive advances of consciousness in matter 
undergoing organisation. Having reached die peak, we can 
now turn round and, looking downwards, take in the pattern of 
the whole. And this second check is decisive, the harmony 
is perfect. From any other point of view, there is always a 



' snag ' : something clashes, for there is no natural place no 
generic place — for human thought in the landscape. Whereas 
here, from top to bottom, from our souls and including our souls, 
the lines stretch in both directions, untwisted and unbroken. 
From top to bottom, a triple unity persists and develops : unity 
of structure, unity of mechanism and unity of movement. 
a. Unity of structure. ' Verticils ' and ' farmings out '. 

On every scale, this is the pattern we see on the tree of life. 
We found it again at the origins of mankind and of the principal 
human waves. We have seen it with our own eyes today in the 
complex ramifications of nations and races. And now, with an 
eye rendered more sensitive by training, we shall be able to 
discern the same pattern again in forms which are more and more 
immaterial and near. 

Our habit is to divide up our human world into compart- 
ments of different sorts of ' realities ' : natural and artificial, 
physical and moral, organic and juridical, for instance. 

In a space-time, legitimately and perforce extended to 
include the movements of the mind within us, the frontiers 
between these pairs of opposites tend to vanish. Is there after all 
such a great difference from the point of view of the expansion 
of life between a vertebrate either spreading its limbs or equipping 
them with feathers, and an aviator soaring on wings with which 
he has had the ingenuity to provide himself ? In what way is the 
ineluctable play of the energies of the heart less physically real 
than the principle of universal attraction ? And, conventional 
and impermanent as they may seem on the surface, what are the 
intricacies of our social forms, if not an effort to isolate litde by 
litde what are one day to become the structural laws of the noo- 
sphere ? In their essence, and provided they keep their vital 
connection with the current that wells up from the depths of the 
past, are not the artificial, the moral and the juridical simply the 
hominised versions of the natural, the physical and the organic ? 

From this point of view, which is that of the future natural 
history of the world, distinctions we cling to from habit (at 
die risk of over-partitioning the world) lose their value. Hence 



the ramifications of evolution reappear and go on close to us in a 
thousand social phenomena which we should never have imagined 
to be so closely linked with biology ; in the formation and dis- 
semination of languages, in the development and specialisation 
of new industries, in the formulation and propagation of philo- 
sophic and religious doctrines. In each of these groups of human 
activity a superficial glance would only detect a weak and hap- 
hazard reproduction of the procedures of life. It would accept 
without questioning the strange fact of parallelism— or it would 
account verbally for it in terms of some abstract necessity. 

For a mind that has awakened to the full meaning of evolu- 
tion, mere inexplicable similitude is resolved in identity— the 
identity of a structure which, under different forms, extends 
from the bottom to the top, from threshold to threshold, from 
the roots to the flowers— by the organic continuity of move- 
ment or, which amounts to the same thing, by the organic unity 
of milieu. 

The social phenomenon is the culmination and not the attenuation 
of the biological phenomenon, 
b. Unity of mechanism. ' Groping ' and ' invention '. 

It was to these words that we turned instinctively when we 
ran up against the facts of ' mutations ' in describing the appear- 
ance of successive zoological groups. 

What exactly are these words worth, imbued as they may 
well be with anthropomorphism ? 

Mutation reappears undeniably at the origin of the ramifi- 
cations of institutions and ideas which interlace to form human 
society. Everywhere around us it is constandy cropping up, 
and precisely under the two forms that biology has divined and 
between which it hesitates : on the one hand we have mutations 
narrowly limited round a single focus ; on the other ' mass 
mutations ' in which whole blocks of mankind are swept along as 
by a flood. Here, however, because the phenomenon takes place 
in ourselves with its procedure in full view, we cannot be 
mistaken : we can see that in interpreting the progressive leaps 
of life in an active and finalist way we are not in error. For if 



our ' artificial ' constructions are really nothing but the legitimate 
sequel to our phylogenesis, invention also — this revolutionary act 
from which the creations of our thought emerge one after the 
other — can legitimately be regarded as an extension in reflective 
form of the obscure mechanism whereby each new form has 
always germinated on the trunk of life. 

This is no metaphor, but an analogy founded in nature. We 
find the same thing in both — only it is easier to define in the 
hominised state. 

And so, here again, we find that light reflected on itself, 
glancing off and in a flash descending to the lowest frontiers of 
the past. But this time what its beam illuminates in us at our 
lowest stages is no longer an endless play of tangled verticils, but 
a long sequence of discoveries. In the same beam of light the 
instinctive gropings of the first cell link up with the learned 
gropings of our laboratories. So let us bow our heads with 
respect for the anxieties and joys of ' trying all and discovering 
all '. The passing wave that we can feci was not formed in 
ourselves. It comes to us from far away ; it set out at the same 
time as the light from the first stars. It reaches us after creating 
everything on the way. The spirit of research and conquest is 
the permanent soul of evolution. 

c. And hence, throughout all time, unity of movement. ' The 
rise and expansion of consciousness.' 

Man is not the centre of the universe as once we thought in 
our simplicity, but something much more wonderful — the arrow 
pointing the way to the final unification of the world in terms of 
life. Man alone constitutes the last-born, the freshest, the most 
complicated, the most subdc of all the successive layers of life. 

This is nothing else than the fundamental vision and I shall 
leave it at that. 

But this vision, mind you, only acquires its full value — is 
indeed only defensible — through the simultaneous illumination 
within ourselves of the laws and conditions of heredity. 

As I have already had occasion to say, we do not yet know 
how characters are formed, accumulated and transmitted in the 



secret recesses of the germ cells. Or rather, so long as it is talking 
of plants and animals, biology has not yet found a way of recon- 
ciling in phy ogenesis the spontaneous activity of individuals 
with the blind determinism of the genes. In its inability to do 
so it is inclined to make the living being the passive and power- 
less witness of the transformations he undergoes-without being 
able to influence them and without being responsible for them 

But then (and this is the moment to settle the question once 
and for all), m the phylogenesis of mankind, what becomes of 
the part, obvious enough, played by the power of invention ? 

What evolution perceives of itself in man by reflecting itself 
m him is enough to dispel or at least to correct these paradoxical 

Certainly in our innermost being we all feel the weight, 
the stock of obscure powers, good or bad, a sort of definite and 
unalterable quantum * handed down to us once and for all 
from the past. But with no less clarity we see that the further 
advance of the vital wave beyond us depends on how industri- 
ously we use those powers. How could we doubt this when 
we see them directly before us, through all the channels of ' tradi- 
tion , stored up irreversibly in the highest form of life accessible 
to our expenence-I mean the collective memory and intelligence 
of the human biota ? Ever under the influence of our tendency 
to disparage the ' artificial ', we are apt to regard these social 
functions— tradition, education and upbringing— as pale images, 
almost parodies, of what takes place in the natural formation of 
species. If the noosphere is not an illusion, is it not much more 
exact to recognise in these communications and exchanges of 
ideas the higher form, in which they come to be fixed in us, of 
the less supple modes of biological enrichments by additivity? 

In short, the further the living being emerges from the 
anonymous masses by the radiation of his own consciousness, 
the greater becomes the part of his activity which can be stored 
up and transmitted by means of education and imitation. From 
this point of view man only represents an extreme case of trans- 
formation. Transplanted by man into the thinking layer of the 



earth, heredity, without ceasing to be germinal (or chromo- 
somatic) in the individual, finds itself, by its very life-centre, 
settled in a reflecting organism, collective and permanent, in 
which phylogenesis merges with ontogenesis. From the chain 
of cells it passes into the circumterrestrial layers of the noosphere. 
There is nothing surprising if from this moment onwards, and 
thanks to the characters of this new milieu, it is reduced in its 
finest part to the pure and simple transmission of acquired spiritual 

Passive as it may have been before reflection, heredity now 
springs to life, supremely active, in its noospheric form — that is 
to sav, by becoming hominised. 

Hence we were not saying enough when we said that 
evolution, by becoming conscious of itself in the depths of our- 
selves, only needs to look at itself in the mirror to perceive itself 
in all its depths and to decipher itself. In addition it becomes 
free to dispose of itself— it can give itself or refuse itself. Not 
only do we read in our slightest acts the secret of its proceedings ; 
but for an elementary part we hold it in our hands, responsible 
for its past to its future. 

Is this grandeur or servitude ? Therein lies the whole problem 
of action. 


A. Modern Disquiet 

It is impossible to accede to a fundamentally new environment 
without experiencing the inner terrors of a metamorphosis. The 
child is terrified when it opens its eyes for the first time. Similarly, 
for our mind to adjust itself to lines and horizons enlarged beyond 
measure, it must renounce the comfort of familiar narrowness. 
It must create a new equilibrium for everything that had formerly 
been so neatly arranged in its small inner world. It is dazzled 
when it emerges from its dark prison, awed to find itself suddenly 



at the top of a tower, and it suffers from giddiness and disorienta- 
tion. The whole psychology of modern disquiet is linked with 
the sudden confrontation with space-time. 

It cannot be denied that, in a primordial form, human anxiety 
is bound up with the very advent of reflection and is thus as 
old as man himself. Nor do I think that anyone can seriously 
doubt the fact that, under the influence of reflection undergoing 
socialisation, the men of today are particularly uneasy, more so 
than at any other moment of history. Conscious or not, anguish 
-a fundamental anguish of being-despite our smiles, strikes in 
the depths of all our hearts and is the undertone of all our con- 
versations. This does not mean that its cause is clearly recognised 
-far from it. Something threatens us, something is more than 
ever lacking, but without our being able to say exactly what. 

Let us try then, step by step, to localise the source of our 
disquiet, eliminating the illegitimate causes of disturbance till we 
find the exact site of the pain at which the remedy, if there is one, 
should be applied. 

hi the first and most widespread degree, the ' malady of 
space-tune ' manifests itself as a rule by a feeling of futility, of 
being crushed by the enormities of the cosmos. 

The enormity of space is the most tangible and thus the most 
frightening aspect. Which of us has ever in his life really had the 
courage to look squarely at and try to ' live * a universe formed 
of galaxies whose distance apart runs into hundreds of thousands 
of light years ? Which of us, having tried, has not emerged from 
the ordeal shaken in one or other of his beliefs ? And who, even 
when trying to shut his eyes as best he can to what the astronomers 
implacably put before us, has not had a confused sensation of a 
gigantic shadow passing over the serenity of his joy ? 

Enormity of duration— sometimes having the effect of an 
abyss on those few who are able to see it, and at other times 
more usually (on those whose sight is poor), the despairing effect 
of stability and monotony. Events that follow one anodier in 
a circle, vague pathways which intertwine, leading nowhere. 
Corresponding enormity of number— the bewildering number 



of all that has been, is, and will be necessary to fill time and 
space. An ocean in which we seem to dissolve all the more 
irresistibly the more lucidly alive we are. The effort of trying 
conscientiously to find our proper place among a thousand 
million men. Or merely in a crowd. 

Malady of multitude and immensity .. . 
To overcome this first form of its uneasiness, I believe that 
the modern world has no choice but to proceed unhesitatingly 
right to the end of its intuition. 

As motionless or blind (and by that I mean so long as we 
think of them as motionless or blind) time and space are indeed 
terrifying. Accordingly what could make our initiation into the 
true dimensions of the world dangerous is for it to remain 
incomplete, deprived of its complement and necessary corrective 
—the perception of an evolution animating those dimensions. 
On the other hand, what matters the giddy plurality of the stars 
and their fantastic spread, if that immensity (symmetrical with 
the infinitesimal) has no other function but to equilibrate the 
intermediary layer where, and where only in the medium range of 
size, life can build itself up chemically ? What matter the millions 
of years and milliards of beings that have gone before if those 
countless drops form a current that carries us along ? Our 
consciousness would evaporate, as though annihilated, in the 
limitless expansions of a static or endlessly moving universe. 
It is inwardly reinforced in a flux which, incredibly vast as it may 
be, is not only becoming but genesis, which is something quite 
different. Indeed time and space become humanised as soon as a 
definite movement appears which gives them a physiognomy. 

' There is nothing new under the sun ' say the despairing. 
But what about you, O thinking man ? Unless you repudiate 
reflection, you must admit that you have climbed a step higher 
than the animals. ' Very well, but at least nothing has changed 
and nothing is changing any longer since the beginning of 
history.' In that case, O man of the twentieth century, how does 
it happen that you are waking up to horizons and are susceptible 
to fears that your forefathers never knew ? 



In truth, half our present uneasiness would be turned into 
happiness if we could once make up our minds to accept the 
facts and place the essence and the measure of our modern 
cosmogonies within a noogenesis. Along this axis no doubt is 
possible. The universe has always been in motion and at this 
moment continues to be in motion. But will it still be in motion 
tomorrow ? 

Here only, at this turning point where the future substitutes 
itself for the present and the observations of science should give 
way to the anticipations of a faith, do our perplexities legitimately 
and indeed inevitably begin. Tomorrow ? But who can guaran- 
tee us a tomorrow anyway ? And without the assurance that 
this tomorrow exists, can we really go on living, we to whom 
has been given — perhaps for the first time in the whole story of 
the universe — the terrible gift of foresight ? 

Sickness of die dead end — the anguish of feeling shut in . . . 

This time we have at last put our finger on the tender spot. 

What makes the world in which we live specifically modern 
is our discovery in it and around it of evolution. And I can 
now add that what disconcerts the modern world at its very 
roots is not being sure, and not seeing how it ever could be 
sure, that there is an outcome — a suitable outcome — to that evolu- 

Now what should the future be like in order to give us the 
strength or even die joy to accept the prospect of it and bear 
its weight ? 

To come to grips with the problem and see if there is a 
remedy, let us examine the whole situation. 

b. The Requirements of the Future 

There was a time when life held sway over none but slaves and 
children. To advance, all it needed was to feed obscure instincts 
— the bait of food, the urge of reproduction, the half-confused 
struggle for a place in the sun, stepping over others, trampling 



them down if need be. The aggregate rose automatically and 
docile, as the resultant of an enormous sum of egoisms given 
rein. There was a time too, almost within living memory, 
when the workers and the disinherited accepted without reflec- 
tion the lot which kept them in servitude to the remainder 
of society. 

Yet when the first spark of thought appeared upon the earth, 
life found it had brought into the world a power capable of 
criticising it and judging it. Tins formidable risk which long 
lay dormant, but whose dangers burst out with our first awaken- 
ing to the idea of evolution. Like sons who have grown up, 
like workers who have become ' conscious ', we are discovering 
that something is developing in the world by means of us, 
perhaps at our expense. And what is more serious still is that 
we have become aware that, in the great game that is being 
played, we are the players as well as being the cards and the 
stakes. Nothing can go on if we leave the table. Neither can 
any power force us to remain. Is the game worth the candle, or 
are we simply its dupes ? This question has hardly been formu- 
lated as yet in man's heart, accustomed for hundreds of centuries 
to toe the line ; it is a question, however, whose mere murmur, 
already audible, infallibly predicts future rumblings. The last 
century witnessed the first systematic strikes in industry ; the 
next will surely not pass without the threat of strikes in the 

There is a danger that the elements of the world should 
refuse to serve the world — because they think ; or more pre- 
cisely that the world should refuse itself when perceiving itself 
through reflection. Under our modern disquiet, what is forming 
and growing is nothing less than an organic crisis in evolution. 

And now, at what price and on what contractual bases will 
order be restored ? On all the evidence, that is the nub of the 

In the critical disposition of mind we shall be in from now 
on, one thing is clear. We shall never bend our backs to the 
task that has been allotted us of pushing noogenesis onward except 



on condition that the effort demanded of us has a chance of 
succeeding and of taking us as far as possible. An animal may 
rush headlong down a blind alley or towards a precipice. Man 
will never take a step in a direction he knows to be blocked. 
There lies precisely the ill that causes our disquiet. 

Having got so far, what are the minimum requirements to 
be fulfilled before we can say that the road ahead of us is open ? 
There is only one, but it is everything. It is that we should be 
assured the space and the chances to fulfil ourselves, that is to 
say, to progress till we arrive (directly or indirectly, individually 
or collectively) at the utmost limits of ourselves. This is an 
elementary request, a basic wage, so to speak, veiling neverthe- 
less a stupendous demand. But is not the end and aim of thought 
that still unimaginable farthest limit of a convergent sequence, 
propagating itself without end and ever higher ? Does not the 
end or confine of thought consist precisely in not having a 
confine ? Unique in this respect among all the energies of the 
universe, consciousness is a dimension to which it is inconceiv- 
able and even contradictory to ascribe a ceiling or to suppose 
that it can double back upon itself. There are innumerable 
critical points on the way, but a halt or a reversion is impossible, 
and for the simple reason that every increase of internal vision 
is essentially the germ of a further vision which includes all the 
others and carries still farther on. 

Hence this remarkable situation — that our mind, by the very 
fact of being able to discern infinite horizons ahead, is only 
able to move by the hope of achieving, through something of 
itself, a supreme consummation — without which it would rightly 
feel itself to be stunted, frustrated and cheated. By the nature 
of the work, and correlativcly by the requirement [exyj<?M«] of 
the worker, a total death, an unscalable wall, on which con- 
sciousness would crash and then for ever disappear, are thus ' in- 
compossible ' with the mechanism of conscious activity (since it 
would immediately break its mainspring). 

The more man becomes man, the less will he be prepared to 
move except towards that which is interminably and indes- 



tructibly new. Some ' absolute ' is implied in the very play of 
his operative activity. 

After that, ' positive and critical ' minds can go on saying as 
much as they like that ihe new generation, less ingenuous than 
their elders, no longer believes in a future and in a perfecting 
of the world. Has it even occurred to those who write and 
repeat these tilings that, if they were right, all spiritual move- 
ment on earth would be virtually brought to a stop ? They 
seem to believe that life would continue its peaceful cycle when 
deprived of light, of hope and of the attraction of an inexhaust- 
ible future. And this is a great mistake. Flowers and fruit might 
still go on perhaps for a few years more by habit. But from 
these roots the trunk would be well and truly severed. Even 
on stacks of material energy, even under the spur of immediate 
fear or desire, without the taste for life, mankind would soon stop 
inventing and constructing for a work it knew to be doomed 
in advance. And, stricken at the very source of the impetus 
which sustains it, it would disintegrate from nausea or revolt 
and crumble into dust. 

Having once known the taste of a universal and durable 
progress, we can never banish it from our minds any more than 
our intelligence can escape from the space-time perspective it 
once has glimpsed. 

If progress is a myth, that is to say, if faced by the work 
involved we can say : ' What's the good of it all ? ' our efforts 
will flag. With that the whole of evolution will come to a 
halt — because we are evolution. 1 

c. The Dilemma and the Choice 

And now, by the very fact that we have measured the truly 
cosmic gravity of the sickness that disquiets us, we are put in 

1 There is no such thing as the ' energy of despair ' in spice of what is some- 
times said. What those words really mean is a paroxysm of hope against hope. 
All conscious energy is, like love (and because it is love), founded on hope. 



possession of the remedy that can cure it. ' After the long series 
of transformations leading to man, has the world stopped ? Or, 
if we are still moving, is it not merely in a circle ? ' 

The answer to that uneasiness of the modern world springs 
up by itself when we formulate the dilemma in which the 
analysis of our action has imprisoned us. 

Either nature is closed to our demands for futurity, in which 
case thought, the fruit of millions of years of effort, is stifled, 
still-born in a self-abortive and absurd universe. Or else an 
opening exists— that of the super-soul above our souls ; but 
in that case the way out, if we are to agree to embark on it, must 
open out freely onto limitless psychic spaces in a universe to 
which we can unhesitatingly entrust ourselves. 

Between these two alternatives of absolute optimism or 
absolute pessimism, there is no middle way because by its very 
nature progress is all or nothing. We are confronted accordingly 
with two directions and only two : one upwards and the 
other downwards, and there is no possibility of finding a half- 
way house. 

On neither side is there any tangible evidence to produce. 
Only, in support of hope, there are rational invitations to an 
act of faith. 

At this cross-roads where we cannot stop and wait because we 
are pushed forward by life— and obliged to adopt an attitude 
if we want to go on doing anything whatsoever — what are we 
going freely to decide ? 

To determine man's choice, in his famous wager, Pascal 
loaded the dice with the lure of boundless gain. Here, when 
one of die alternatives is weighted with logic and, in a sense, 
by the promise of a whole world, can we still speak of a simple 
game of chance ? Have we the right to hesitate ? 

The world is too big a concern for that. To bring us into 
existence it has from the beginning juggled miraculously with 
too many improbabilities for there to be any risk whatever in 
committing ourselves further and following it right to the end. 
If it undertook the task, it is because it can finish it, following 




the same methods and with the same infallibility with which 
it began. 

In last analysis the best guarantee that a thing should happen 
is that it appears to us as vitally necessary. 

We have said that life, by its very structure, having once 
been lifted to its stage of thought, cannot go on at all without <s T I B wivai 

requiring to ascend ever higher. 

This is enough for us to be assured of the two points of which 
our action has immediate need. 

The first is that there is for us, in the future, under some 
form or another, at least collective, not only survival but also 

The second is that, to imagine, discover and reach this 
superior form of existence, we have only to think and to walk 
always further in the direction in which the lines passed by evolu- 
tion take on their maximum coherence. 




Preliminary Observation : 
A Blind Alley to be Avoided : Isolation 

When man has realised that he carries the world's fortune in 
himself and that a limitless future stretches before him in which 
lie cannot founder, his first reflex often leads him along the 
dangerous course of seeking fulfilment in isolation. 

In one example of this — flattering to our private egotism — 
some innate instinct, justified by reflection, inclines us to think 
that to give ourselves full scope we must break away as far as 
possible from the crowd of others. Is it not in our aloofness from 
our fellows, or alternatively in their subjection to ourselves, 
that we will find that ' utmost limit of ourselves ' which is our 
declared goal ? The study of the past teaches us that, with the 
onset of reflection, an element partially liberated from phyletic 
servitudes began to live for itself. So is it not in a line continuous 
with that initial emancipation that further advance must lie? 
To be more alone so as to increase one's being. Like some radiat- 
ing substance, mankind would in this case culminate in a dust 
of active, dissociated particles. This doubdess would not mean 
diat a cluster of sparks would be extinguished in darkness, for 
that would involve the total death whose hypothesis we have 
just eliminated by our fundamental option. Rather it would 
involve the hope that, in the long run, some rays, more pene- 
trating or luckier than others, would finish up by finding the 
path sought from the outset by consciousness, groping for 



its consummation. Concentration by decentration from the 
rest ; solitary, and by dint of solitude the elements of the noo- 
sphere capable of being saved would find their salvation at the 
extreme limit of, and by the very excess of, their individualisation. 

It is rare around us for extreme individualism to go beyond 
the bounds of a philosophy of immediate enjoyment and feel 
the need to come to terms with the profound requirements of 

Less theoretical and less extreme, but all the more insidious, 
is another doctrine of ' progress by isolation ' which, at this 
very moment, is fascinating large sections of mankind — the 
doctrine of the selection and election of races. Flattering to 
collective egotism, keener, nobler and more easily aroused than 
individual egotism, racialism lias the virtue in its perspectives 
of accepting and extending rigorously, just as they occur, the 
lines of the tree of life. What indeed does the history of the 
animate world show us but a succession of ramifications, spring- 
ing up one after the other, one on the top of the other, through 
the success and domination of a privileged group ? And why 
should we be exempt from the general rule ? Why should 
there not be once again between us the struggle for life and the 
survival of the fittest ; the trial of strength ? The super-man 
should, like any other stem, be an offshoot from a single bud 
of mankind. 

Isolation of the individual or isolation of the group : here 
we have two different forms of the same tactics, each seemingly 
able to produce a plausible justification by pointing to the methods 
pursued by life for its development right down to us. 

We shall be seeing later wherein lies the attraction (or per- 
versity) of these cynical and brutal theories in which, however, 
a noble passion may also stir. We shall also see why, faced with 
one or other of these calls to violence, we cannot help some- 
times being deeply responsive. They involve a subtle deforma- 
tion of a great truth. 

What matters at the moment is to see clearly that those in 
both groups deceive themselves, and us too, inasmuch as, ignoring 



an essential phenomenon— the ' natural confluence of grains of 
thought '—they disfigure or hide from our eyes the veritable 
contours of the noosphere and render biologically impossible the 
formation of a veritable spirit of the earth. 


A. Forced Coalescence 

a. Coalescence of Elements. By their very nature, and at every 
level of complexity, the elements of the world are able to influ- 
ence and mutually to penetrate each other by their within, so 
as to combine their ' radial energies ' in ' bundles '. While no 
more than conjecturable in atoms and molecules, this psychic 
interpenetrability grows and becomes directly perceptible in the 
case of organised beings. Finally in man, in whom the effects of 
consciousness attain the present maximum found in nature, it 
reaches a high degree everywhere. It is written all over the 
social phenomenon and is, of course, felt by us directly. But 
at the same time, in this case also, it operates only in virtue of 
the ' tangential energies ' of arrangement and thus under certain 
conditions of spatial juxtaposition. 

And here there intervenes a fact, commonplace at first sight, 
but through which in reality there transpires one of the most 
fundamental characteristics of the cosmic structure— the round- 
ness of the earth. The geometrical limitation of a star closed, like 
a gigantic molecule, upon itself. We have already regarded this 
as a necessary feature at the origin of the first synthesis and 
polymerisations on the early earth. Implictly, without our 
having to say so, it has constantly sustained all the differentiations 
and all the progress of the biosphere. But what are we to say of 
its function in the noosphere ? 

What would have become of humanity if, by some remote 
chance, it had been free to spread indefinitely on an unlimited 
surface, that is to say left only to the devices of its internal 



affinities ? Something unimaginable, certainly something alto- 
gether different from the modern world. Perhaps even nothing 
at all, when we think of the extreme importance of the role 
played in its development by the forces of compression. 

Originally and for centuries there was no serious obstacle 
to the human waves expanding over the surface of the globe ; 
probably this is one of the reasons explaining the slowness of 
their social evolution. Then, from the Neolithic age onwards, 
these waves began, as we have seen, to recoil upon themselves. 
All available space being occupied, the occupiers had to pack in 
tighter. That is how, step by step, through the simple multiply- 
ing effect of generations, we have come to constitute, as we do 
at present, an almost solid mass of hominised substance. 

Now, to the degree that — under the effect of this pressure 
and thanks to their psychic permeability — the human elements 
infiltrated more and more into each other, their minds (mysterious 
coincidence) were mutually stimulated by proximity. And as 
though dilated upon themselves, they each extended little by 
little the radius of their influence upon this earth which, by the 
same token, shrank steadily. What in fact do we see happening 
in the modern paroxysm ? It has been stated over and over 
again. Through the discovery yesterday of the railway, the 
motor car and the aeroplane, the physical influence of each man, 
formerly restricted to a few miles, now extends to hundreds of 
leagues or more. Better still : thanks to the prodigious biological 
event represented by the discovery of electro-magnetic waves, 
each individual finds himself henceforth (actively and passively) 
simultaneously present, over land and sea, in every corner of the 

Thus, not only through the constant increase in the numbers 
of its members, but also through the continual augmentation of 
their area of individual activity, mankind — forced to develop 
as it is in a confined area — has found itself relentlessly subjec- 
ted to an intense pressure, a sclf-acccntuating pressure, because 
each advance in it caused a corresponding expansion in each 



That is one of the first facts to keep in mind, or we shall 
vitiate our picture of the future of the world. 

Undeniably, quite apart from any hypothesis, the external 
play of cosmic forces, when combined with the nature— so prone 
to coalesce— of our thinking souls, operates towards a concen- 
tration of the energies of consciousness ; and so powerful is 
this effort that it even succeeds in subjugating the very con- 
structions of phylogenesis— but wc shall be coming to that 

b. Coalescence of the Branches. Twice already— once in developing 
the theory and once in outlining the historic phases of anthro- 
pogenesis— I called attention to the curious property, peculiar 
to human lines of descent, of coming into contact and mixing with 
each other, notably by means of their psychic sheath and social 
institutions. The moment has now come to make a general 
survey of the phenomenon and discover its ultimate significance. 
What at first sight intrigues the naturalist when he tries to 
ve the hominids— not merely in themselves, as anthropologists 
usually do, but in comparison with other animal forms— is the 
extraordinary elasticity of their zoological group. Outwardly 
in man, the anatomical differentiation of a primitive type pursues 
its course as everywhere in evolution. By genetic effects muta- 
tions are produced. By climatic and geographical influences, 
varieties and races come into existence. Somatically speaking, 
the ' fanning-out ' is present continually in formation and per- 
fecdy recognisable. Yet the remarkable thing is that its divergent 
branches no longer succeed in separating. Under conditions of 
distribution which in any other initial phylum would have led 
long ago to the break up into different species, the human 
verticil as it spreads out remains entire, like a gigantic leaf whose 
veins, however distinct, remain always joined in a common 
tissue. With man we find indefinite interfecundation on every 
level, the blending of genes, anastomoses of races in civilisa- 
tions or political bodies. Zoologically speaking, mankind 
offers us the unique spectacle of a ' species ' capable of achiev- 
ing something in which all previous species had failed It. 



has succeeded, not only in becoming cosmopolitan, but in 
stretching a single organised membrane over the earth without 

breaking it. . 

To what should we attribute this strange condition it not to 
a reversal, or more exactly a radical pcrfcctioning, of the ways 
of life by the operation (at last, and only now possible) of a 
powerful instrument of evolution-the coalescence upon itself of 

an entire phylum ? . . 

Here again, at the base of the process, lies the exiguity of 
the earth on which the living stems are forced by their very 
growth to writhe and intertwine their living branches like 
ferried shoots of ivy. But this external contact was and would 
always have remained insufficient to reach a point of conjunction 
without the new ' binder ' conferred on the human biota by the 
birth of reflection. Until man came, the most life had managed 
to realise in the matter of association had been to gather socially 
together on themselves, one by one, the finer extremities of the 
same phylum. This resulted in essentially mechanical and family 
groups created on a purely ' functional ' impulse of construction, 
defence or propagation, such as the colony, the hive or the 
ant-heap— all organisms whose power of association is limited 
to the offspring of one single mother. From man onwards, 
thanks to the universal framework or support provided by 
thought, free rein is given to the forces of confluence. At the 
heart of this new milieu, the branches themselves of one and 
the same group succeed in uniting, or rather they become welded 
together even before they have managed to separate off. 

In this way the differentiation of groups in the course of 
human phylogenesis is maintained up to a certain point, that is 
to say so far as— by gropingly creating new types— it is a biologi- 
cal condition of discovery and enrichment. After that (or at the 
same time)— as happens on a sphere where the meridians separate 
off at one pole only to come together at the other— this divergence 
gives place to, and becomes subordinate to, a movement of 
convergence in which races, peoples and nations consolidate one 
another and complete one another by mutual fecundation. 



Anthropologically, ethnically, socially, morally, we under- 
stand nothing about man and can make no valid forecasts of 
his future, so long as we fail to see that, in his case, ' ramifi- 
cation ' (in so far as it still persists) works only with the aim 
— and under higher forms — of agglomeration and convergence. 
Formation of verticils, selection, struggle for life — henceforward 
these are secondary functions, subordinate in man to a task of 
cohesion, a furling back upon itself of a ' bundle ' of potential 
species around the surface of the earth, a completely new mode 
of phylogenesis. 1 

B. Mega-Synthesis 

The coalescence of elements and the coalescence of stems, the 
spherical geometry of the earth and psychical curvature of the 
mind harmonising to counterbalance the individual and collective 
forces of dispersion in the world and to impose unification — there 
at last we find the spring and secret of hominisation. 

But why should there be unification in the world and what 
purpose does it serve ? 

To sec the answer to this ultimate question, we have only 
to put side by side the two equations which have been gradually 
formulating themselves from the moment we began trying to 
situate the phenomenon of man in the world. 

Evolution= Rise of consciousness, 

Rise of consciousness= Union effected. 

The general gathering together in which, by correlated 
actions of the without and the within of the earth, the totality of 
thinking units and thinking forces are engaged — the aggregation 
in a single block of a mankind whose fragments weld together 
and interpenetrate before our eyes in spite of (indeed in pro- 
portion to) their efforts to separate — all this becomes intelligible 
from top to bottom as soon as we perceive it as the natural 
culmination of a cosmic processus of organisation which has 
1 This is what I have called elsewhere ' the human Planetisation '. 



never varied since those remote ages when our planet was young. 

First the molecules of carbon compounds with their thousands 
of atoms symmetrically grouped ; next the cell which, within a 
very small volume, contains thousands of molecules linked in a 
complicated system ; then the metazoa in which the cell is no 
more than an almost infinitesimal element ; and later the mani- 
fold attempts made sporadically by the metazoa to enter into 
symbiosis and raise themselves to a higher biological condi- 

And now, as a germination of planetary dimensions, comes 
the thinking layer which over its full extent develops and inter- 
twines its fibres, not to confuse and neutralise them but to 
reinforce them in the living unity of a single tissue. 

Really I can see no coherent, and therefore scientific, way 
of grouping this immense succession of facts but as a gigantic 
psycho-biological operation, a sort of mega-synthesis, the ' super- 
arrangement ' to which all the thinking elements of the earth 
find themselves today individually and collectively subject. 

Mega-synthesis in the tangential, and therefore and thereby 
a leap forward of the radial energies along the principal axis of 
evolution : ever more complexity and thus ever more con- 
sciousness. If that is what really happens, what more do we 
need to convince ourselves of the vital error hidden in the depths 
of any doctrine of isolation ? The egocentric ideal of a future 
reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the 
extremity of everyone for himself' is false and against nature. 
No element could move and grow except with and by all the 
others with itself. 

Also false and against nature is the racial ideal of one branch 
draining off for itself alone all the sap of the tree and rising 
over the death of other branches. To reach the sun nothing less 
is required than the combined growth of the entire foliage. 

The outcome of the world, the gates of the future, the entry 
into the super-human — these are not thrown open to a few of 
the privileged nor to one chosen people to the exclusion of all 
others. They will open only to an advance of all together, in a 



direction in which all together* can join and find completion in a 
spiritual renovation of the earth, a renovation whose physical 
degree of reality we must now consider and whose outline we 
must make clearer. 


A. Mankind 

Mankind : the idea of mankind was the first image in terms 
of which, at the very moment that he awoke to the idea of 
progress, modern man must have tried to reconcile the hopes of 
an unlimited future with which he could no longer dispense with 
the perspective of the inevitability of his own unavoidable 
individual death. ' Mankind ' was at first a vague entity, felt 
rather than thought out, in which an obscure feeling of perpetual 
growth was allied to a need for universal fraternity. Mankind was 
the object of a faith that was often naive but whose magic, being 
stronger than all vicissitudes and criticisms, goes on working with 
persuasive force upon the present-day masses and on the 'intelli- 
gentsia ' alike. Whether one takes part in the cult or makes 
fun of it, even today no-one can escape being haunted or even 
dominated by the idea of mankind. 

In the eyes of the ' prophets ' of the eighteenth century, the 
world appeared really as no more than a jumble of confused 
and loose relationships ; and the divination of a believer was 
required to feel the beating heart of that sort of embryo Now 
less than two hundred years later, here we are penetrating 
(though hardly conscious of the fact) into the reality, at any rate 
the material reality, of what our fathers expected. In the course 
of a few generations all sorts of economic and cultural links have 
been forged around us and they are multiplying in geometric 
progression. Nowadays, over and above the bread which to 
simple Neolithic man symbolised food, each man demands his 
1 Even if they do so only under the influence of a few, an ilite. 



daily ration of iron, copper and cotton, of electricity, oil and 
radium, of discoveries, of the cinema and of international news. 
It is no longer a simple field, however big, but the whole earth 
which is required to nourish each one of us. If words have any 
meaning, is this not like some great body which is being born 
—with its limbs, its nervous system, its perceptive organs, its 
memory— the body in fact of that great Thing which had to 
come to fulfil the ambitions aroused in the reflective being by 
the newly acquired consciousness that he was at one with and 
responsible to an evolutionary All ? 

Indeed, following logically upon our effort to co-ordinate 
and organise the lines of the world, it is to an outlook recalling 
the initial intuition of the first philanthropists that our minds 
constantly return, with the elimination of individualist and racial 
heresies. No evolutionary future awaits man except in associa- 
tion with all other men. The dreamers of yesterday glimpsed 
that. And in a sense we see the same tiling. But what we are 
better able to perceive, because we stand on their shoulders, are 
its cosmic roots, its particular physical substance, and finally the 
specific nature of this mankind of which they could only have 
a presentiment— and which we cannot overlook unless we shut 

our eyes. 

Cosmic roots. For the earliest humanitarians, man, in uniting 
with liis fellows, was following a natural precept whose origins 
people hardly bothered to analyse and hence to measure their 
gravity. In those days, was not nature still treated as a personage 
or as a poetic metaphor ? What she required of us at a particular 
time she might have just thought up yesterday and perhaps 
would no longer want tomorrow. For us, more aware of the 
dimensions and structural demands of the world, the forces 
which converge upon us from without or arise from within 
and drive us ever closer together, are losing any semblance of 
arbitrariness and any danger of instability. 

Mankind was a fragile and even fictitious construction so 
long as it could only have a limited, plural and disjointed cosmos 
as a setting ; but it becomes consistent and at the same time 



probable as soon as it is brought within the compass of a biological 
space-time and appears as a continuation of the very lines of the 
universe amongst other realities as vast as itself. 

Physical stuff. For many of our contemporaries, mankind 
still remains something unreal, unless materialised in an absurd 
way. For some it is only an abstract entity or even a mere 
conventional expression ; for others it becomes a closely-knit 
organic group in which the social element can be transcribed 
literally in terms of anatomy and physiology. It appears either 
as a general idea, a legal entity, or else as a gigantic animal. In 
both views we find the same inability, by default or by excess, 
to think the whole correctly. Does not the only way out of this 
dead-end lie in introducing boldly into our intellectual frame- 
work yet another category to serve for the super-individual ? 
After all, why not ? Geometry, at first constructed on rational 
conceptions of size, would have remained stationary if it had 
not in the end accepted ' e ', tc, and other incommensurables 
as being just as complete and intelligible as any whole number. 
The calculus would never have resolved the problems posed by 
modern physics if it had not constantly continued to conceive 
new functions. For identical reasons biology would not be able 
to generalise itself on the dimensions of the whole of life without 
introducing into the scale of values that it now needs to deal 
with certain stages of being which common experience has 
hitherto been able to ignore — and in particular that of the collective. 
Yes, from now on we envisage, beside and above individual 
realities, the collective realities that arc not reducible to the com- 
ponent clement, yet are in their own way as objective as it is. 
Is it not in this way that I have been inescapably forced to write 
so as to translate the movements of life into concepts ? 

Phyla, layers, branches, etc. . . . 

To the eye that has become adjusted to the perspectives of 
evolution, the directed groups of phyla, layers, branches, etc. 
become perforce as clear, as physically real, as any isolated 
object. And in this particular class of dimensions mankind 
naturally takes its place. But, for it to become reprcsentable to 



us, it is enough that by a mental re-orientation we should reach 
the point of seeing it directly, exactly as it is, widiout attempt- 
ing to put it into terms of anything simpler which we know 

^Specific nature. Here, lastly, we pickup the problem again 
at the point at which the realisation of the confluence of human 
thoughts had already led us. Being a collective reahty and 
therefore sui generis, mankind can only be understood to the 
extent that, leaving behind it. body of tangible constructions, 
we try to determine the particular type of conscious synthesis 
emerging from its laborious and industrious concentration. It 
is in the last resort only definable as a mind. 

Now from this point of view and in the present condition of 
things, there are two ways, through two stages, in which we can 
picture the form mankind will assume tomorrow-either (and 
this is simpler) as a common power and act of knowing and doing, 
or (and this goes much deeper) as an organic superaggregation 
of souls. In short : science or unanimity. 

b. Science 

Taken in the full modern sense of the word, science is the twin 
sister of mankind. Born together, the two ideas (or two dreams) 
grew up together to attain an almost religious valuation in the 
course of the last century. Subsequently they fell together into 
the same disrepute. But that does not prevent them, when 
mutually supporting one another as they do from continuing 
to represent (in fact more than ever) the ideal forces upon winch 
our imagination falls back whenever it seeks to materialise in 
terrestrial form its reasons for believing and hoping. 

The future of science ... As a first approximanon it is out- 
lined on our horizon as the establishment of an overall and 
completely coherent perspective of the universe There was a 
time when the only part ascribed to knowledge lay in lighting 
up for our speculative pleasure the objects ready made and given 

24 8 


around us. Nowadays, thanks to a philosophy which has given a 
meaning and a consecration to our thirst to think all things, we 
can glimpse that unconsciousness is a sort of ontological inferiority 
or evil, since the world can only fulfil itself in so far as it expresses 
itself in a systematic and reflective perception. Even (above all, 
maybe) in mathematics, is not ' discovery ' the bringing into 
existence of something new ? From this point of view, intellec- 
tual discovery and synthesis are no longer merely speculation 
but creation. Therefore, some physical consummation of things 
is bound up with the explicit perception we make of them. And 
therefore, they are (at least partially) right 1 who situate the crown 
of evolution in a supreme act of collective vision obtained by a 
pan-human effort of investigation and construction. 8 

Knowledge for its own sake. But also, and perhaps still more, 
knowledge for power. 

Since its birth, science has made its greatest advances when 
stimulated by some particular problem of life needing a solution ; 
and its most sublime theories would always have drifted, rootless, 
on the flood of human thought if they had not been promptly 
incorporated into some way of mastering the world. Accordingly 
the march of humanity, as a prolongation of that of all other 
animate forms, develops indubitably in the direction of a con- 
quest of matter put to the service of mind. Increased power for 
increased action. But, finally and above all, increased action for 
increased being. 

Of old, the forerunners of our chemists strove to find the 
philosophers' stone. Our ambition has grown since then. It is 
no longer to make gold but life ; and in view of all that has 
happened in the last fifty years, who would dare to say that this 

1 Is not this one of Brunschvig's ideas ? 

* One might say that, by virtue of human reflection (both individual and 
collective), evolution, overflowing the physico-chemical organisation of 
bodies, turns back upon itself and thereby reinforces itself (see note following) 
■with a new organising power vastly concentric to the first — the cognitive 
organisation of the universe. To think ' the world ' (as physics is beginning 
to realise) is not merely to register it but to confer upon it a form of unity it 
would otherwise (i.e. without being thought) be without. 



is a mere mirage? With our knowledge of hormones we appear 
to be on the eve of having a hand in the development of our 
bodies and even of our brains. With the discovery of genes it 
appears that we shall soon be able to control the mechanism of 
organic heredity. And with the synthesis of albuminoids immi- 
nent, we may well one day be capable of producing what the 
earth, left to itself, seems no longer able to produce : a new 
wave of organisms, an artificially provoked neo-life. 1 Immense 
and prolonged as the universal groping has been since the begin- 
ning, many possible combinations have been able to slip through 
die fingers of chance and have had to await man's calculated 
efforts in order to appear. Thought might artificially perfect the 
thinking instrument itself ; life might rebound forward under 
the collective effect of its reflection. The dream upon which 
human research obscurely feeds is fundamentally that of master- 
ing, beyond all atomic or molecular affinities, the ultimate 
energy of which all other energies are merely servants ; and thus, 
by grasping the very mainspring of evolution, seizing the tiller 
of the world. 

I salute those who have the courage to admit that their hopes 
extend that far ; they are at the pinnacle of mankind ; and I 
would say to them that there is less difference than people think 
between research and adoration. But there is a point I would 
like them to note, one that will lead us gradually to a more 
complete form of conquest and adoration. However far science 
pushes its discovery of the ' essential fire ' and however capable 
it becomes some day of remodelling and perfecting the human 
element, it will always find itself in the end facing the same 
problem — how to give to each and every element its final value 
by grouping them in the unity of an organised whole. 

1 It is what I have called ' the human rebound ' of evolution as correlative and 
conjugated with Planet isat ion. 



c. Unanimity 

sunder Tt the ,f rm mC &-^ h ™- Within a better under- 

De Z 2 f ^ u"™' " SCemS t0 me that the word ^uld 
be understood without attenuation or metaphors when applied 

homo. SUni hUma " bemgS " The UIUVerse is Warily 

homogeneous in .ts nature and dimensions. Would it still be 

rLlitv n PS SFral l0St ° nC j0t ° r titde of ^ir dc g'ee of 

uTaL^Tl ° nS1St T C l 'I aSCendmg CVer hi 8 her ? T& "ill 
unnamed Thing wbch the gradual combination of individuals, 
peoples and races will bring into existence, must needs be 
sup'a-phystcal, not infra-physical, if it is to be coherent with the 
rest. Deeper than the common act in which it expresses itself 
more important than the common power of action from which 

by the living reunion of reflective particles 

ibleWlt^ ^ t^" 1011111 t0 l[nQt < and ]t » q«tc cred- 
ible) that the stuff of the universe, by becoming thinking has 

not yet completed its evolutionary cycle, and that we are rWo£ 

moving forward towards some new critical point that hes ahead 

In spite of its organic links, whose existence has everwhere' 

become apparent to us, the biosphere has so far been no more 

than a network of divergent line. f rec at their extremities. By 

effect of reflection and the recoils it involves, the loose ends 

have been tied up, and the noosphere tends to constitute a 

single closed system „, which each element sees, feels, desires 

^suffers for itself the same things as all the others at the same 

We are faced with a harmonised collectivity of conscious- 
nesses equivalent to a sort of super-consciousness. The idea is 
that of the earth not only becoming covered by mynads of 
grains of thought but becoming enclosed in a single thinking 
envelope so as to form, functionally, no more than a single vast 
grain of thought on the sidereal scale, the plurality of individual 



reflections grouping themselves together and reinforcing one 
another in the act of a single unanimous reflection. 

This is the general form in which, by analogy and in sym- 
metry with the past, we are led scientifically to envisage the 
future of mankind, without whom no terrestrial issue is open 
to the terrestrial demands of our action. 

To the common sense of the ' man in the street ' and even 
to a certain philosophy of the world to which nothing is possible 
save what has always been, perspectives such as these will seem 
highly improbable. But to a mind become familiar with the 
fantastic dimensions of the universe they will, on the contrary, 
seem quite natural, because they are simply proportionate with 
the astronomical immensities. 

In the direction of thought, could the universe terminate 
with anything less than the measureless — any more than it could 
in the direction of time and space ? 

One thing at any rate is sure — from the moment we adopt 
a thoroughly realistic view of the noosphere and of the hyper- 
organic nature of social bonds, the present situation of the world 
becomes clearer ; for we find a very simple meaning for the 
profound troubles which disturb the layer of mankind at this 

The two-fold crisis whose onset began in earnest as early as 
the Neolithic age and which rose to a climax in the modern 
world, derives in the first place from a mass-formation (we might 
call it a ' planetisation ') of mankind. Peoples and civilisations 
reached such a degree either of frontier contact or economic 
interdependence or psychic communion that they could no 
longer develop save by interpenetration of one another. But it 
also arises out of the fact that, under the combined influence of 
machinery and the super-heating of thought, we are witnessing 
a formidable upsurge of unused powers. Modern man no longer 
knows what to do with the time and the potentialities he has 
unleashed. We groan under the burden of this wealth. We 
are haunted by the fear of ' unemployment '. Sometimes we 
are tempted to trample this super-abundance back into the 



matter from which it sprang without stopping to think how 
impossible and monstrous such an act against nature would be. 

When we consider the increasing compression of elements 
at the heart of a free energy which is also relentlessly increasing, 
how can we fail to see in this two-fold phenomenon the two 
perennial symptoms of a leap forward of the * radial '—that is 
to say, of a new step in the genesis of mind ? 

In order to avoid disturbing our habits we seek in vain to 
settle international disputes by adjustments of frontiers— or we 
treat as ' leisure ' (to be whiled away) the activities at the disposal 
of mankind. As things are now going it will not be long before 
we run full tilt into one another. Something will explode if 
we persist in trying to squeeze into our old tumble-down huts 
the material and spiritual forces that are henceforward on the 
scale of a world. 

A new domain of psychical expansion— that is what we lack. 
And it is staring us in the face if we would only raise our heads to 
look at it. 

Peace through conquest, work in joy. These are waiting for 
us beyond the line where empires are set up against other empires, 
in an interior totalisation of the world upon itself, in the unani- 
mous construction of a spirit of the earth. 

How is it then that our first efforts towards this great goal 
seem merely to take us farther from it ? 




Another Preliminary Observation 
A Feeling to be overcome : Discouragement 

The reasons behind the scepticism regarding mankind which is 
fashionable among ' enlightened ' people today are not merely 
of a representative order. Even when the intellectual difficulties 
of the mind in conceiving the collective and visualising space- 
time have been overcome, we are left with another and perhaps 
a still more serious form of hesitation which is bound up with 
the incoherent aspect presented by the world of men today. 
The nineteenth century had lived in sight of a promised land. 
It thought that we were on the threshold of a Golden Age, 
lit up and organised by science, warmed by fraternity. Instead 
of that, we find ourselves slipped back into a world of spreading 
and ever more tragic dissension. Though possible and even 
perhaps probable in theory, the idea of a spirit of the earth 
does not stand up to the test of experience. No, man will never 
succeed in going beyond man by uniting with himself. That 
Utopia must be abandoned as soon as possible and there is no 
more to be said. 

To explain or efface the appearances of a setback which, if 
it were true, would not only dispel a beautiful dream but encour- 
age us to weigh up a radical absurdity of the universe, I would 
like to point out in the first place that to speak of experience— 
of the results of experience— in such a connection is premature 



to say the least of it. After alJ half a million years, perhaps even 
a million, were required for life to pass from the pre-hominids 
to modern man. Should we now start wringing our hands 
because, less than two centuries after glimpsing a higher state, 
modern man is still at loggerheads with himself ? Once again 
we have got things out of focus. To have understood the 
immensity around us, behind us, and in front of us is already 
a first step. But if to this perception of depth another perception, 
that of sloivness, be not added, we must realise that the trans- 
position of values remains incomplete and that it can beget for 
our gaze nothing but an impossible world. Each dimension 
has its proper rhythm. Planetary movement involves planetary 
majesty. Would not humanity seem to us altogether static if, 
behind its history, there were not the endless stretch of its pre- 
history ? Similarly, and despite an almost explosive acceleration 
of noogenesis at our level, we cannot expect to see the earth 
transform itself under our eyes in the space of a generation. 
Let us keep calm and take heart. 

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, mankind may very 
well be advancing all round us at the moment — there are in 
fact many signs whereby we can reasonably suppose that it is 
advancing. But, if it is doing so, it must be — as is the way with 
very big tilings — doing so almost imperceptibly. 

This point is of the utmost importance and must never be 
lost sight of. To have made it does not, however, allay the most 
acute of our fears. After all we need not mind very much if 
the light on the horizon appears stationary. What does matter 
is when it seems to be going out. If only we could believe that 
we were merely motionless ! But does it not sometimes seem 
that we are actually being blocked in our advance or even 
swallowed up from behind — as though we were in the grip of 
some ineluctable forces of mutual repulsion and materialisation. 
Repulsion. I have spoken of the formidable pressures which 
hem in the human particles in the present-day world, both 
individuals and peoples being forced in an extreme way, geo- 
graphically and psychologically, up against one another. Now 



the strange fact is that, in spite of the strength of these energies 
bringing men together, thinking units do not seem capable of 
falling within their radius of internal attraction. Leaving aside 
individual cases, where sexual forces or some extraordinary and 
transitory common passion come into play, men are hostile or 
at least closed to one another. Like a powder whose particles, 
however compressed, refuse to enter into molecular contact, 
deep down men exclude and repel one another with all their 
might : unless (and this is worse still) their mass forms in such 
a way that, instead of the expected mind, a new wave of deter- 
minism surges up — that is to say, of materiality. 
Materialisation. Here I am not only thinking of the laws of 
large numbers which, irrespective of their secret ends, enslave 
by structure each newly-formed multitude. As with every other 
form of life, man, to become fully man, had to become legion. 
And, before becoming organised, a legion is necessarily prey to 
the play, however directed it be, of chance and probability. There 
are imponderable currents which, from fashion and rates of 
exchange to political and social revolutions, make us all the 
slaves of the obscure seethings of the human mass. However 
spiritualised we suppose its elements to be, every aggregate of 
consciousness, so long as it is not harmonised, envelops itself 
automatically (at its own level) with a veil of ' neo-matter ', 
superimposed upon all other forms of matter — matter, the 
' tangential ' aspect of every living mass in course of unification. 
Of course we must react to such conditions ; but with the 
satisfaction of knowing that they are only the sign of and price 
paid for progress. But what are we to say of the other slavery, 
the one which gains ground in the world in very proportion to 
the efforts we make to organise ourselves ? 

At no previous peripd of history has mankind been so well 
equipped nor made such efforts to reduce its multitudes to order. 
We have ' mass movements ' — no longer the hordes streaming 
down from the forests of the north or the steppes of Asia, but 
' the Million ' scientifically assembled. The Million in rank and 
file on the parade ground ; the Million standardised in the 



factory ; the Million motorised— and all this enly ending up 
with Communism and National-Socialism and the most ghastly 
fetters. So we get the crystal instead of the cell ; the ant-hill 
instead of brotherhood. Instead of the upsurge of consciousness 
which we expected, it is mechanisation that seems to emerge 
inevitably from totalisation. 

'Eppur si muove ! ' 

In the presence of such a profound perversion of the rules 
of noogenesis, I hold that our reaction should be not one of 
despair but of a determination to re-examine ourselves. When 
an energy runs amok, the engineer, far from questioning the 
power itself, simply works out his calculations afresh to see how 
it can be brought better under control. Monstrous as it is, is 
not modern totalitarianism really the distortion of something 
magnificent, and thus quite near to the truth ? There can be no 
doubt of it : the great human machine is designed to work and 
must work— by producing a super-abundance of mind. If it does 
not work, or rather if it produces only matter, this means that 
it has gone into reverse. 

Is it not possible that in our theories and in our acts we have 
neglected to give due place to the person and the forces of 
personalisation ? 


A. The Personal Universe 

Unlike the primitives who gave a face to every moving thing, or 
the early Greeks who defined all the aspects and forces of nature, 
modern man is obsessed by the need to depersonalise (or im- 
personalise) all that he most admires. There are two reasons 
for this tendency, The first is analysis, that marvellous instru- 
ment of scientific research to which we owe all our advances 
but which, breaking down synthesis after synthesis, allows on 



soul after another to escape, leaving us confronted with a pile of 
dismantled machinery, and evanescent particles. The second 
reason lies in the discovery of the sidereal world, so vast that ,t 
seems to do away with all proportion between our own being 
and the dimensions of the cosmos around us. Only one reality 
seems to survive and be capable of succeeding and spanning the 
infinitesimal and the immense: energy-that floating universal 
entity from which all emerges and into which all falls back as 
into an ocean ; energy, the new spirit ; the new god. So, at the 
world's Omega, as at its Alpha, lies the Impersonal 

Under the influence of such impressions as these, it looks 
as though we have lost both respect for the person and under- 
standing of his true nature. We end up by admitting that to 
be pivoted on oneself, to be able to say ' I', is the privilege (or 
rather the blemish) of the element in the measure to which the 
latter closes the door on all the rest and succeeds in setting him- 
self up at the antipodes of the All. In the opposite direction we 
conceive the ' ego ' to be diminishing and eliminating itself, 
with the trend to what is most real and most lasting m the 
world namely the Collective and the Universal. Personality is 
seen as a specifically corpuscular and ephemeral property ; a 
prison from which we must try to escape. 

Intellectually, that is more or less where we stand today. 
Yet if we try, as I have done in this essay, to pursue the 
Wic and coherence of facts to the very end, we seem to be 
led to the precisely opposite view by the notions of space-time 

and evolution. 

We have seen and admitted that evolution is an ascent 
towards consciousness. That is no longer contested even by the 
most materialistic, or at all events by the most agnostic of 
humanitarians. Therefore it should culminate forwards in some 
sort of supreme consciousness. But must not that consciousness, 
if it is to be supreme, contain in the highest degree what is the 
perfection of our consciousness-thc illuminating involution ot 
the being upon itself ? It would manifestly be an error to extend 
the curve of hominisation in the direction of a state of diffusion. 



It is only in the direction of hyper-reflection — that is to say, 
hyper-pcrsonalisation— that thought can extrapolate itself. 
Otherwise how could it garner our conquests which are all made 
in the field of what is reflected ? At first sight we arc disconcerted 
by the association of an Ego with what is the All. The utter 
disproportion of the two terms seems flagrant, almost laughable. 
That is because we have not sufficiently meditated upon the 
three-fold property possessed by every consciousness : (i) of 
centring everything partially upon itself ; (ii) of being able to 
centre itself upon itself constantly ; and (iii) of being brought more 
by this very super-centration into association with all the other 
centres surrounding it. Are we not at every instant living the 
experience of a universe whose immensity, by the play of our 
senses and our reason, is gathered up more and more simply in 
each one of us ? And in the establishment now proceeding 
through science and the philosophies of a collective human 
Weltanschauung in which every one of us co-operates and 
participates, are we not experiencing the first symptoms of an 
aggregation of a still higher order, the birth of some single 
centre from die convergent beams of millions of elementary 
centres dispersed over the surface of the thinking earth ? 

All our difficulties and repulsions as regards the opposition 
between the All and the Person would be dissipated if only we 
understood that, by structure, the noosphere (and more generally 
the world) represent a whole that is not only closed but also 
centred. Because it contains and engenders consciousness, space- 
time is necessarily oja convergent nature. Accordingly its enormous 
layers, followed in die right direction, must somewhere ahead 
become involuted to a point which we might call Omega, which 
fuses and consumes them integrally in itself. However immense 
the sphere of the world may be, it only exists and is finally 
perceptible in the directions in which its radii meet — even if 
this were beyond time and space altogether. Better still : the 
more immense this sphere, the richer and deeper and hence the 
more conscious is the point at which the ' volume of being ' 
that it embraces is concentrated ; because the mind, seen from 



our side, is essentially the power of synthesis and organisation. 

Seen from this point of view, the universe, without losing 
any of its immensity and thus without suffering any anthro- 
pomorphism, begins to take shape : since to think it, undergo it 
and make it act, it is beyond our souls that we must look, not the 
othe, way round. In the perspective of a noogenesis, time and 
space become truly humanised^r rather super-humanised. Far 
from being mutually exclusive, the Universal and Personal 
(that is to say, the ' centred ') grow in the same direction and 
culminate simultaneously in each other. 

It is therefore a mistake to look for the extension ot our 
being or of the noosphere in the Impersonal. The Future- 
Universal could not be anything else but the Hyper-Personal- 
at the Omega Point. 

b. The Personalising Universe 

Personalisation. It is by this internal deepening of consciousness 
upon itself that we have characterised (Book III, Chapter I, 
Section I) the particular destiny of the element that has become 
fully itself by crossing the threshold of reflection— and there, 
a regards the fate of individual human beings-we brought our 
inquiry to a provisional halt. Personalisation : the same type 
of progress reappears here, but this time it defines the collective 
future of totalised grains of thought. There is an identical 
function for the element as for the sum of the elements brought 
together in a synthesis. How can we conceive and foresee that 
the two movements harmonise ? How, without being impeded 
or deformed, can the innumerable particular curves be inscribed 
or even prolonged in their common envelope ? 

The time has come to tackle this problem, and, for that pur- 
pose to analyse still further the nature of the personal centre of 
convergence upon whose existence hangs the evolutionary 
equilibrium of the noosphere. What should this higher pole of 
evolution be, in order to fulfil its role ? 



It is by definition in Omega that — in its flower and its integrity 
— the hoard of consciouness liberated little by little on earth 
by noogenesis adds itself together and concentrates. So much 
has already been accepted. But what exactly do we mean, what 
is implied, when we use the apparently simple phrase 'addition 
of consciousness ' ? 

When we listen to the disciples of Marx, we might think 
it was enough for mankind (for its growth and to justify the 
sacrifices imposed on us) to gather together the successive 
acquisitions we bequeath to it in dying — our ideas, our dis- 
coveries, our works of art, our example. Surely this imperish- 
able treasure is the best part of our being. 

Let us reflect a moment, and we shall soon see that for a 
universe which, by hypothesis, we admitted to be a ' collector 
and custodian of consciousness ', the mere hoarding of these 
remains would be nothing but a colossal wastage. What passes 
from each of us into the mass of humanity by means of invention, 
education and diffusion of all sorts is admittedly of vital impor- 
tance. I have sufficiently tried to stress, its phylctic value and no 
one can accuse me of belittling it. But with that accepted, I am 
bound to admit that, in these contributions to the collectivity, 
far from transmitting the most precious, we are bequeathing, at 
the utmost, only the shadow of ourselves. Our works ? But 
even in the interest of life in general, what is the work of works 
for man if not to establish, in and by each one of us, an absolutely 
original centre in which the universe reflects itself in a unique 
and inimitable way ? And those centres are our very selves and 
personalities. The very centre of our consciousness, deeper than 
all its radii ; that is the essence which Omega, if it is to be truly 
Omega, must reclaim. And this essence is obviously not some- 
thing of which we can dispossess ourselves for the benefit of 
others as we might give away a coat or pass on a torch. For we 
are the very flame of that torch. To communicate itself, my ego 
must subsist through abandoning itself or the gift will fade away. 
The conclusion is inevitable that the concentration of a conscious 
universe would be unthinkable if it did not reassemble in itself 



all consciousnesses as well as all the conscious; each particular 
consaousness remaining conscious of itself at the end of the opera- 
tion and even (this must absolutely be understood) each part cul r 
consaousness becoming sail more itself and thus more clearly 
distinct from others the closer it gets to them in Omega. 

The exaltation, not merely the conservation, of elements by 
convergence : what, after all, could be more simple, and more 
thoroughly in keeping with all we know ? 

In any domain-whetber it be the cells of a body the mem- 
bers of a society or the elements of a spiritual synthesis-««.o» 
differentiates. In every organised whole, the parts perfect them- 
selves and fulfil themselves. Through neglect of this universal 
rule many a system of pantheism has led us astray to the cult 
of a great All in which individuals were supposed to be merged 
like a drop in the ocean or like a dissolving grain of salt. Applied 
to the case of the summation of consciousnesses, the law of union 
rids us of this perilous and recurrent illusion. No, following the 
confluent orbits of their centres, the grains of consaousness do 
not tend to lose their outlines and blend, but on the contrary, 
to accentuate the depth and incommunicabilitv of their egos. 
The more ' other ' they become in conjunction, the more they 
find themselves as ' self. How could it be otherwise since they 
are steeped in Omega? Could a centre dissolve? Or r«h£ 
would not its particular way of dissolving be to supercentrahse 

^'Thus under the influence of these two factors-the essential 
immiscibikty of consciousnesses, and the natural mechanism of 
all unification-the only fashion in which we could correctly 
express the final state of a world undergoing psychical con- 
centration would be as a system whose unity coincides with a 
paroxysm of harmonised complexity. Thus it would be mistaken 
to represent Omega to ourselves simply as a centre born of the 
fusion of elements which it collects, or annihilating them in 
itself By its structure Omega, in its ultimate principle, can only 
be a distinct Centre radiating at the core of a system of centres ; a 
grouping in which personalisation of the All and personahsanons 



of the elements reach their maximum, simultaneously and with- 
out merging, under the influence of a supremely autonomous 
focus of union. 1 That is the only picture which emerges when we 
try to apply the notion of collectivity with remorseless logic to 
a granular whole of thoughts. 

And at this point we begin to see the motives for the fervour 
and the impotence which accompany every egoistic solution of 
life. Egoism, whether personal or racial, is quite rightly excited 
by the idea of the element ascending through faithfulness to life, 
to the extremes of the incommunicable and the exclusive that it 
holds within it. It feels right. Its only mistake, but a fatal one, 
is to confuse individuality with personality. In trying to separate 
itself as much as possible from others, the element individualises 
itself ; but in doing so it becomes retrograde and seeks to drag 
the world backwards towards plurality and into matter. In fact 
it diminishes itself and loses itself. To be fully ourselves it is in 
the opposite direction, in the direction of convergence with all 
the rest, that we must advance — towards the ' other '. The peak 
of ourselves, the acme of our originality, is not our individuality 
but our person ; and according to the evolutionary structure of 
the world, wc can only find our person by uniting together. 
There is no mind without synthesis. The same law holds good 
from top to bottom. The true ego grows in inverse proportion 
to ' egoism '. Like the Omega which attracts it, the element 
only becomes personal when it universaliscs itself. 2 

There is, however, an obvious and essential proviso to be 
made. For the human particles to become really personalised 
under the creative influence of union — according to the preceding 
analysis — not every kind of union will do. Since it is a question of 
achieving a synthesis of centres, it is centre to centre that they 

1 It is for this central focus, necessarily autonomous, that we shall hence- 
forward reserve the expression ' Omega Point '. 

* Conversely, it only universalises itself properly in becoming super-per- 
sonal. There is all the difference (and ambiguity) between the true and the 
false political or religious mysticisms. By the latter man is destroyed ; by 
the former he is fulfilled by ' becoming lost in the greater than himself'. 



must make contact and not otherwise. Thus, amongst the various 
forms of psychic inter-activity animating the noosphcre, the 
energies we must identify, harness and develop before all others 
are those of an ' intercentric ' nature, if we want to give effective 
help to the progress of evolution in ourselves. 
Which brings us to the problem of love. 



We are accustomed to consider (and with what a refinement of 
analysis!) only the sentimental face of love, the joy and miseries 
it causes us. It is in its natural dynamism and its evolutionary 
significance that I shall be dealing with it here, with a view to 
determining the ultimate phases of the phenomenon of man. 

Considered in its full biological reality, love— that is to say, 
the affinity of being with being— is not peculiar to man. It is 
a general property of all life and as such it embraces, in its varieties 
and degrees, all the forms successively adopted by organised 
matter. In the mammals, so close to ourselves, it is easily recog- 
nised in its different modalities : sexual passion, parental instinct, 
social solidarity, etc. Farther off, that is to say lower down on 
the tree of life, analogies are more obscure until they become so 
faint as to be imperceptible. But this is the place to repeat what 
I said earlier when we were discussing the ' within of things . 
If there were no real internal propensity to unite, even at a pro- 
digiously rudimentary level— indeed in the molecule itself— it 
would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, 
with us, in ' hominised ' form. By rights, to be certain of its 
presence in ourselves, we should assume its presence, at least in 
an inchoate form, in everything that is. And in fact if we look 
around us at the confluent ascent of consciousnesses, we see it 
is not lacking anywhere. Plato felt this and has immortalised 
the idea in his Dialogues. Later, with thinkers like Nicolas of 
Cusa, mediaeval philosphy returned technically to the same 
notion. Driven by ths forces of love, the fragments of the world 



seek each other so that the world may come to being. This is 
no metaphor ; and it is much more than poetry. Whether as a 
force or a curvature, the universal gravity of bodies, so striking 
to us, is merely the reverse or shadow of that which really moves 
nature. To perceive cosmic energy ' at the fount ' we must, if 
there is a within of things, go down into the internal or radial 
zone of spiritual attractions. 

Love in all its subtleties is nothing more, and nothing less, than 
the more or less direct trace marked on the heart of the element 
by the psychical convergence of the universe upon itself. 

This, if I am not mistaken is the ray of light which will help 
us to see more clearly around us. 

We are distressed and pained when we see modern attempts 
at human collectivisation ending up, contrary to our expectations 
and theoretical predictions, in a lowering and an enslavement of 
consciousnesses. But so far how have wc gone about the business 
of unification ? A material situation to be defended ; a new 
industrial field to be opened up, better conditions for a social 
class or less favoured nations — those arc the only and very 
mediocre grounds on which we have so far tried to get together. 
There is no cause to be surprised if, in the footsteps of animal 
societies, we become mechanised in the very play of association. 
Even in the supremely intellectual activity of science (at any rate as 
long as it remains purely speculative and abstract) the impact 
of our souls only operates obliquely and indirectly. Contact is 
still superficial, involving the danger of yet another servitude. 
Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as 
to complete and fulfil them, for it alone takes them and joins 
them by what is deepest in themselves. This is a fact of daily 
experience. At what moment do lovers come into the most 
complete possession of themselves if not when they say they 
are lost in each other ? In truth, does not love every instant achieve 
all around us, in the couple or the team, the magic feat, the feat 
reputed to be contradictory, of ' personalising ' by totalising ? 
And if that is what it can achieve daily on a small scale, why 
should it not repeat this one day on world-wide dimensions ? 



Mankind, the spirit of the earth, the synthesis of individuals 
and peoples, the paradoxical conciliation of the clement with 
the whole, and of unity with multitude— all these are called 
Utopian and yet they are biologically necessary. And for them 
to be incarnated in the world all we may well need is to imagine 
our power of loving developing until it embraces the total of 
men and of the earth. 

It may be said that this is the precise point at which we are 
invoking the impossible. Man's capacity, it may seem, is con- 
fined to giving his affection to one human being or to very few. 
Beyond that radius the heart does not carry, and there is only 
room for cold justice and cold reason. To love all and everyone 
is a contradictory and false gesture which only leads in the end to 

loving no-one. 

To that I would answer that if, as you claim, a universal love 
is impossible, how can we account for that irresistible instinct 
in our hearts which leads us towards unity whenever and in 
whatever direction our passions are stirred ? A sense of the uni- 
verse, a sense of the all, the nostalgia which seizes us when con- 
fronted by nature, beauty, music— these seem to be an expectation 
and awareness of a Great Presence. The ' mystics ' and their 
commentators apart, how has psychology been able so con- 
sistently to ignore this fundamental vibration whose ring can 
be heard by every practised ear at die basis, or rather at the 
summit, of every great emotion ? Resonance to the All— the 
keynote of pure poetry and pure religion. Once again : what 
does this phenomenon, which is bom with thought and grows 
with it, reveal if not a deep accord between two realities which 
seek each other ; the severed particle which trembles at the 
approach of ' the rest ' ? 

We are often inclined to think that we have exhausted the 
various natural forms of love with a man's love for his wife, 
his children, his friends and to a certain extent for his country. 
Yet precisely the most fundamental form of passion is missing 
from this list, the one which, under the pressure of an involuting 
universe, precipitates the elements one upon the other in the 



Whole — cosmic affinity and hence cosmic sense. A universal 
love is not only psychologically possible ; it is the only complete 
and final way in which we are able to love. 

But, with this point made, how are we to explain the 
appearance all around us of mounting repulsion and hatred ? 
If such a strong potentiality is besieging us from within and 
urging us to union, what is it waiting for to pass from potentiality 
to action ? Just this, no doubt : that we should overcome the 
' anti-personalist ' complex which paralyses us, and make up our 
minds to accept the possibility, indeed the reality, of some 
source of love and object of love at the summit of the world above 
our heads. So long as it absorbs or appears to absorb the person, 
collectivity kills the love that is trying to come to birth. As 
such collectivity is essentially unlovable. That is where philan- 
thropic systems break down. Common sense is right. It is 
impossible to give oneself to an anonymous number. But if the 
universe ahead of us assumes a face and a heart, and so to speak 
personifies itself, 1 then in the atmosphere created by this focus 
the elemental attraction will immediately blossom. Then, no 
doubt, under the heightened pressure of an infolding world, the 
formidable energies of attraction, still dormant between human 
molecules, will burst forth. 

The discoveries of the last hundred years, with their unitary 
perspectives, have brought a new and decisive impetus to our 
sense of the world, to our sense of the earth, and to our human 
sense. Hence the rise of modern pantheism. But this impetus 
will only end by plunging us back into super-matter unless it 
leads us towards someone. 

For die failure that threatens us to be turned into success, 
for the concurrence of human monads to come about, it is 
necessary and sufficient for us that we should extend our science 
to its farthest limits and recognise and accept (as being necessary 
to close and balance space-time) not only some vague future 

1 Nor, of course, by becoming a person, but by charging itself at the very 
heart of its development with the dominating and unifying influence of a 
focus of personal energies and attractions. 



existence, but also, as I must now stress, the radiation as a present 
reality of that mysterious centre of our centres which I have 
called Omega. 


After allowing itself to be captivated in excess by the charms of 
analysis to the extent of falling into illusion, modern thought 
is at last getting used once more to the idea of the creative 
value of synthesis in evolution. It is beginning to see that there 
is definitely more in the molecule than in the atom, more in the 
cell than in the molecule, more in society than in the individual, 
and more in mathematical construction than in calculations and 
theorems. We are now inclined to admit that at each further 
degree of combination something which is irreducible to isolated 
elements emerges in a new order. And with this admission, 
consciousness, life and thought are on the threshold of acquiring 
a right to existence in terms of science. But science is nevertheless 
still far from recognising that this something has a particular value 
of independence and solidity. For, bom of an incredible con- 
course of chances on a precariously assembled edifice, and failing 
to create any measurable increase of energy by their advent, are 
not these ' creatures of synthesis ', from the experimental point 
of view, the most beautiful as well as the most fragile of things ? 
How could they anticipate or survive the ephemeral union of 
particles on which their souls have alighted ? So in the end, in 
spite of a half-hearted conversion to spiritual views, it is still on 
the elementary side— that is, towards matter infinitely diluted 
—that physics and biology look to find the eternal and the Great 


In conformity with this state of mind the idea that some 
Soul of souls should be developing at the summit of the world 
is not as strange as might be thought from the present-day views 
of human reason. After all, is there any other way in which our 



thought can generalise the Principle of Emergence ? 1 At the 
same time, as this Soul coincides with a supremely improbable 
coincidence of the totality of elements and causes, it remains 
understood or implied that it could not form itself save at an 
extremely distant future and in a total dependence on the rever- 
sible laws of energy. 

Yet it is precisely from these two restrictions (fragility and 
distance), both incompatible to my mind with the nature and 
function of Omega, that we want to rid ourselves — and this for 
two positive reasons, one of love, the other of survival. 

First of all the reason of Love. Expressed in terms of internal 
energy, the cosmic function of Omega consists in initiating and 
maintaining within its radius the unanimity of the world's 
' reflective ' particles. But how could it exercise this action 
were it not in some sort loving and lovable at this very moment ? 
Love, I said, dies in contact with the impersonal and the 
anonymous. With equal infallibility it becomes impoverished 
with remoteness in space — and still more, much more, with 
difference in time. For love to be possible there must be co- 
existence. Accordingly, however marvellous its foreseen figure, 
Omega could never even so much as equilibrate the play of 
human attractions and repulsions if it did not act with equal 
force, that is to say with the same stuff of proximity. With 
love, as with every other sort of energy, it is within the existing 
datum that the lines of force must at every instant come together. 
Neither an ideal centre, nor a potential centre could possibly 
suffice. A present and real noosphere goes with a real and 
present centre. To be supremely attractive, Omega must be 
supremely present. 

In addition, the reason of survival. To ward off the threat of 
disappearance, incompatible with the mechanism of reflective 
activity, man tries to bring together in an ever vaster and more 
permanent subject the collective principle of his acquisitions — 
civilisation, humanity, the spirit of the earth. Associated in these 
enormous entities, with their incredibly slow rhythm of evolu- 
1 See, the quotation 60m J. B. S. Haldane in footnote p. 57. 



tion, he has the impression of having escaped from the destructive 
action of time. 1 

But by doing this he has only pushed back the problem. For 
after all, however large the radius traced witliin time and space, 
does the circle ever embrace anything but the perishable ? So 
long as our constructions rest with all their weight on the earth, 
they will vanish with the earth. The radical defect in all forms 
of belief in progress, as they are expressed in positivist credos, 
is that they do not definitely eliminate death. What is the use of 
detecting a focus of any sort in the van of evolution if that 
focus can and must one day disintegrate ? To satisfy the ultimate 
requirements of our action, Omega must be independent of the 
collapse of the forces with which evolution is woven. 

Actuality, irreversibility. There is only one way in which 
our minds can integrate into a coherent picture of noogenesis 
these two essential properties of the autonomous centre of all 
centres, and that is to resume and complement our Principle of 
Emergence. In the light of our experience it is abundantly 
clear that emergence in the course of evolution can only happen 
successively and with mechanical dependence on what precedes 
it. First the grouping of the elements ; then the manifestation 
of ' soul ' whose operation only betrays, from the point of view 
of energy, a more and more complex and sublimated involution 
of the powers transmitted by the chains of elements. The radial 
function of the tangential : a pyramid whose apex is supported 
from below : that is what we see during the course of the pro- 
cess. And it is in the very same way that Omega itself is discovered 
to us at the end of the whole processus, inasmuch as in it the 
movement of synthesis culminates. Yet we must be careful to 
note that under this evolutive facet Omega still only reveals 
half of itself. While being the last term of its series, it is also 
outside all series. Not only does it crown, but it closes. Otherwise 
the sum would fall short of itself, in organic contradiction with 
the whole operation. When, going beyond the elements, we 

1 See for example that curious book by Wells, The Anatomy oj Frustration, 
which eloquently bears witness to the faith and the misgivings ot modem man. 



come to speak of the conscious Pole of the world, it is not 
enough to say that it emerges from the rise of consciousnesses: 
we must add that from this genesis it has already emerged ; 
without which it could neither subjugate into love nor fix in 
incorruptibility. If by its very nature it did not escape from the 
time and space which it gathers together, it would not be Omega. 

Autonomy, actuality, irreversibility, and thus finally tran- 
scendence are the four attributes of Omega. In this way we 
round off without difficulty the scheme left incomplete at the 
end of our second chapter, where we sought to enclose the 
energy-complex of our universe. 

In Omega we have in the first place the principle we needed 
to explain both the persistent march of dungs towards greater 
consciousness, and the paradoxical solidity of what is most 
fragile. Contrary to the appearances still admitted by physics, 
the Great Stability is not at the bottom in the infra-elementary 
sphere, but at the top in the ultra-synthetic sphere. It is thus 
entirely by its tangential envelope that the world goes on dissi- 
pating itself in a chance way into matter. By its radial nucleus 
it finds its shape and its natural consistency in gravitating against 
the tide of probability towards a divine focus of mind which 
draws it onward. 

Thus something in the cosmos escapes from entropy, and 
does so more and more. 

During immense periods in the course of evolution, the radial, 
obscurely stirred up by the action of the Prime Mover ahead, 
was only able to express itself, in diffuse aggregates, in animal 
consciousness. And at that stage, not being able, above them, 
to attach themselves to a support whose order of simplicity was 
greater than their own, the nuclei were hardly formed before 
they began to disaggregate. But as soon as, through reflection, 
a type of unity appeared no longer closed or even centred, but 
punctiform, the sublime physics of centres came into play. When 
they became centres, and therefore persons, the elements could 
at last begin to react, direcdy as such, to the personalising action 
of the centre of centres. When consciousness broke through the 



critical surface of hominisation, it really passed from divergence 
to convergence and changed, so to speak, both hemisphere and 
pole. Below that critical ' equator ' lay the relapse into 
multiplicity ; above it, the plunge into growing and irreversible 
unification. Once formed, a reflective centre can no longer 
change except by involution upon itself. To outward appearance, 
admittedly, man disintegrated just like any animal. But here and 
there we find an inverse function of the phenomenon. By death, 
in the animal, the radial is reabsorbed into the tangential, while 
in man it escapes and is liberated from it. It escapes from entropy 
by turning back to Omega : the hominisation of death itself. 

Thus from the grains of thought forming the veritable and 
indestructable atoms of its stuff, the universe— a well-defined 
universe in the outcome— goes on building itself above our 
heads in the inverse direction of matter which vanishes. The 
universe is a collector and conservator, not of mechanical energy, 
as we supposed, but of persons. All round us, one by one, like 
a continual exhalation, ' souls ' break away, carrying upwards 
their incommunicable load of consciousness. One by one, yet 
not in isolation. Since, for each of them, by the very nature of 
Omega, there can only be one possible point of definitive 
emersion — that point at which, under the synthesising action of 
personalising union, the noosphere (furling its elements upon 
themselves as it too furls upon itself) will reach collectively its 
point of convergence — at the ' end of the world '. 




We have seen that without the involution of matter upon itself, 
that is to say, without the closed chemistry of molecules, cells 
and phyletic branches, there would never have been either 
biosphere or noosphere. In their advent and their development, 
life and thought are not only accidentally, but also structurally, 
bound up with the contours and destiny of the terrestrial mass. 

But, on the other hand, we now see ahead of us a psychical 
centre of universal drift, transcending time and space and thus 
essentially extra-planetary, to sustain and equilibrate the surge 
of consciousnesses. 

The idea is that of noogenesis ascending irreversibly towards 
Omega through the strictly limited cycle of a gcogenesis. At a 
given moment in the future, under some influence exerted by 
one or the other of these curves or of both together, it is inevitable 
that the two branches should separate. However convergent it 
be, evolution cannot attain to fulfilment on earth except through 
a point of dissociation. 

With this we are introduced to a fantastic and inevitable 
event which now begins to take shape in our perspective, the 
event which comes nearer with every day that passes : the end 
of all life on our globe, the death of the planet, the ultimate 
phase of the phenomenon of man. 

No one would dare to picture to himself what the noosphere 
will be like in its final guise, no one, that is, who has glimpsed 
however faindy the incredible potential of unexpectedness 
accumulated in the spirit of the earth. The end of the world 
defies imagination. But if it would be absurd to try to describe 



it, we may none the less— by making use of the lines of approach 
already laid down— to some extent foresee the significance and 
circumscribe the forms. 

What the ultimate earth cannot be in a universe of conscious 
substance; how will it take shape; and what it will probably be 
—those are the questions I want to raise, coldly and logically, in 
no way apocalyptically, not so much for the sake of affirming 
anything as to give food for thought. 



When the end of the world is mentioned, the idea that leaps into 
our minds is always one of catastrophe. 

Generally we think of a sidereal cataclysm. There arc so 
many stars hurtling around and brushing past ; there are those 
exploding worlds on the horizon ; so, surely, by the implacable 
laws of chance, our turn will come sooner or later and we shall 
be stricken and killed ; or, at the least, wc shall have to face a 
slow death in our prison. 

Since physics has discovered that all energy runs down, we 
seem to feel the world getting a shade chillier every day. That 
cooling-off to which we were condemned Iras been partially 
compensated for by another discovery, that of radio-activity, 
which has happily intervened to compensate and delay the 
imminent cooling. The astronomers are now in a position to 
guarantee that, if all goes as it should, we have at any rate several 
hundred million years ahead of us. So we can breathe again. 
Yet, though the settlement is postponed, the shadow grows 


And will mankind still be there to watch the evening fall ? 
In the interim, apart from the cosmic mishaps that lie in wait for 
us, what will happen in the living layer of the earth ? With 
age and increasing complication, wc arc ever more threatened 
by internal dangers at the core of both the biosphere and the 
noospherc. Onslaughts of microbes, organic counter-evolutions, 



sterility, war, revolution — there are so many ways of coming 
to an end. Yet perhaps anything would be better than a long- 
drawn-out senility. 

We are well aware of these different eventualities. We have 
turned them over in our minds. We have read descriptions of 
them in the novels of the Goncourts, Benson and Wells, or in 
scientific works signed by famous names. Each one of them is 
perfectly feasible. Wc could very well, and at any moment, be 
crushed by a gigantic comet. And, equally true, tomorrow the 
earth might quake and collapse under our feet. Taken individu- 
ally, each human will can repudiate the task of ascending higher 
towards union. And yet, on the strength of all we learn from 
past evolution, I feel entitled to say that we have nothing what- 
ever to fear from these manifold disasters in so far as they imply 
the idea of premature accident or failure. However possible 
they may be in theory, wc have higher reasons for being sure 
that they will not happen. 

All pessimistic representations of the earth's last days — 
whether in terms of cosmic catastrophe, biological disruptions 
or simply arrested growth or senility — have this in common : 
that they take the characteristics and conditions of our individual 
and elemental ends and extend them without correction to life as 
a whole. Accident, disease and decrepitude spell the death of 
men ; and therefore the same applies to mankind. 

But have we any right to generalise in this simple way ? 
When an individual disappears, even prematurely, another is 
always there to replace him. His loss is not irreparable from the 
point of view of the continuation of life. But what about man- 
kind ? In one of his books the great palaeontologist Matthew 
has suggested that if the human branch disappeared, another 
thinking branch would soon take its place. But he does not tell us 
where this mysterious shoot could be expected to appear on the 
tree of life as we know it, and doubdess he would be hard 
put to it to do so. 

If wc take the whole of history into consideration, the bio- 
logical situation seems to me to be quite otherwise. 



Once and once only in the course of its planetary existence 
has the earth been able to envelop itself with life. Similarly 
once and once only has life succeeded in crossing the threshold 
of reflection. For thought as for life there has been just one season. 
And we must not forget that since the birth of thought man has 
been the leading shoot of the tree of life. That being so, the hopes 
for the future of the noosphere (that is to say, of biogenesis, 
which in the end is the same as cosmogenesis) are concentrated 
exclusively upon him as such. How then could he come to an 
end before his time, or stop, or deteriorate, unless the universe 
committed abortion upon itself, which we have already decided 
to be absurd ? 

In its present state, the world would be unintelligible and the 
presence in it of reflection would be incomprehensible, unless 
we supposed there to be a secret complicity between the infinite 
and the infinitesimal to warm, nourish and sustain to the very 
end — by dint of chance, contingencies and the exercise of free 
choice — the consciousness that has emerged between the two. 
It is upon this complicity that we must depend. Man is irreplace- 
able. Therefore, however improbable it might seem, he must 
reach the goal, not necessarily, doubtless, but infallibly. 

What we should expect is not a halt in any shape or form, 
but an ultimate progress coming at its biologically appointed 
hour ; a maturation and a paroxysm leading ever higher into 
the Improbable from which we have sprung. It is in this direc- 
tion that we must extrapolate man and hominisation if we 
want to get a forward glimpse of the end of the world. 


Widiout going beyond the limits of scientific probability, we 
can say diat life still has before it long periods of geological 
time in which to develop. Moreover, in its thinking form, it 
still shows every sign of an energy in full expansion. On the 
one hand, compared with the zoological layers which preceded 



it whose average duration is at least in the order of eighty million 
years, mankind is so young that it could almost be called new- 
born. On the other hand, to judge from the rapid developments 
of thought in the short period of a few dozen centuries, this 
youth bears within it the indications and the promises of an 
entirely new biological cycle. Thus in all probability, between 
our modern earth and the ultimate earth, there stretches an 
immense period, characterised not by a slowing-down but a 
speeding up and by the definitive florescence of the forces of 
evolution along the line of the human shoot. 

Assuming success — which is the only acceptable assumption 
— under what form and along what lines can we imagine progress 
developing during this period ? 

In the first place, in a collective and spiritual form. We have 
noticed that, since man's advent, there has been a certain slowing 
down of the passive and somatic transformations of the organism 
in favour of the conscious and active metamorphoses of the 
individual absorbed in society. We find the artificial carrying 
on the work of the natural ; and the transmission of an oral or 
written culture being superimposed on genetic forms of heredity 
(chromosomes). Without denying the possibility or even prob- 
ability of a certain prolongation in our limbs, and still more in 
our nervous system, of the orthogenetic processes of the past, 1 
I am inclined to think that their influence, hardly appreciable 
since the emergence of Homo sapiens, is destined to dwindle still 
further. As thought regulated by a sort of quantum law, the 
energies of life seem unable to spread in one region or take on 
a new form except at the expense of a lowering elsewhere. 
Since man's arrival, the evolutionary pressure seems to have 
dropped in all the non-human branches of the tree of life. And 
now that man has become an adult and has opened up for 
himself the field of mental and social transformations, bodies 
no longer change appreciably ; they no longer need to in the 

1 Taken, up again and prolonged reflectively, artificially — who knows? — 
by biology (assault on the laws and springs of heredity, use of hormones, etc., 
sec pp. 249-50). 



human branch ; or if they still change, it will only be under 
our industrious control. It may well be that in its individual 
capacities and penetration our brain has reached its organic 
limits. But die movement does not stop there. From west to 
east, evolution is henceforth occupied elsewhere, in a richer and 
more complex domain, constructing, with all minds joined 
together, wind. Beyond all nations and races, the inevitable 
taking-as-a-whole of mankind has already begun. 

With that said, we have now to ask : along what lines of 
advance, among others— judging from the present condition of 
the noosphere — are we destined to proceed from the planetary 
level of psychic totalisation and evolutionary upsurge we are 
now approaching ? 

I can distinguish three principal ones in which we see again 
the predictions to which we were already led by our analysis 
of the ideas of science and humanity. They are : the organisation 
of research, the concentration of research upon the subject of 
man, and the conjunction of science and religion. These are 
three natural terms of one and the same progression. 

A. The Organisation of Research 

We are given to boasting of our age being an age of science. And 
if we arc thinking merely of the dawn compared to the darkness 
that went before, up to a point we are justified. Something 
enormous has been born in the universe with our discoveries 
and our methods of research. Something has been started which, 
I am convinced, will now never stop. Yet though we may 
exalt research and derive enormous benefit from it, with what 
pettiness of spirit, poverty of means and general haphazardness 
do we pursue truth in the world today ! Have we ever given 
serious thought to the predicament we are in ? 

Like art — indeed we might almost say like thought itself— 
science was bom with every sign of superfluity and fantasy. It 
was born of the exuberance of an internal activity that had 



outstripped the material needs of life ; it was born of the 
curiosity of dreamers and idlers. Gradually it became im- 
portant ; its effectiveness gave it the freedom of the city. Living 
in a world which it can justly be said to have revolutionised, 
it has acquired a social status ; sometimes it is even worshipped. 
Yet we still leave it to grow as best it can, hardly tending it, 
like those wild plants whose fruits arc plucked by primitive 
peoples in their forests. Everything is subordinated to the 
increase in industrial production, and to armaments. The 
scientist and the laboratories which multiply our powers still 
receive nothing, or next to nothing. We behave as though we 
expected discoveries to fall ready-made from the sky, like rain 
or sunshine, while men concentrate on the serious business of 
killing each other and eating. Let us stop to think for a moment 
of the proportion of human energy devoted, here and now, to 
the pursuit of truth. Or, in still more concrete terms, let us 
glance at the percentage of a nations' revenue allotted in its budget 
for the investigation of clearly-defmcd problems whose solution 
would be of vital consequence for the world. If we did we 
should be staggered. Less is provided annually for all the pure 
research all over the world than for one capital ship. Surely 
our great-grandsons will not be wrong if they think of us as 
barbarians ? 

The truth is that, as children of a transition period, we are 
neither fully conscious of, nor in full control of, the new powers 
that have been unleashed. Clinging to outworn habit, we still 
see in science only a new means of providing more easily the 
same old things. We put Pegasus between the traces. And 
Pegasus languishes — unless he bolts with the waggon ! But the 
moment will come — it is bound to — when man will be forced by 
disparity of the equipage to admit that science is not an accessory 
occupation for him but an essential activity, a natural derivative 
of the overspill of energy constantly liberated by mechanisation. 

We can envisage a world whose constantly increasing 
' leisure ' and heightened interest would find their vital issue in 
fathoming everything, trying everything, extending everything ; 



a world in which giant telescopes and atom smashers would 
absorb more money and excite more spontaneous admiration 
than all the bombs and cannons put together; a world in which, 
not only for the restricted band of paid research-workers, but 
also for the man in the street, the day's ideal would be the 
wresting of another secret or another force from corpuscles, 
stars, or organised matter ; a world in which, as happens already, 
one gives one's life to be and to know, rather than to possess. 
That, on an estimate of the forces engaged, 1 is what is being 
relentlessly prepared around us. 

In some of the lower organisms the retina is, as it were, spread 
over the whole surface of the body. In somewhat the same 
way human vision is still diffuse in its operation, mixed up with 
industrial activity and war. Biologically it needs to individualise 
itself independendy, with its own distinct organs. It will not be 
long now before the noosphere finds its eyes. 

B. The Discovery of the Human Object 

When mankind has once realised that its first function is to 
penetrate, intellectually unify, and harness the energies which 
surround it, in order still further to understand and master them, 
there will no longer be any danger of running into an upper 
limit of its florescence. A commercial market can reach satura- 
tion point. One day, though substitutes may be found, we shall 
have exhausted our mines and oil-wells. But to all appearances 
nothing on earth will ever saturate our desire for knowledge or 
exhaust our power for invention. For of each may be said : 
crescit eundo. 

That does not mean that science should propagate itself 
indifFercntly in any and every direction at the same time like a 
ripple in an isotropic medium. The more one looks, the more 

1 External forces of planetary compression obliging humanity to totalise 
itself organically in itself; and internal forces (ascendent and propulsive) of 
spiritualisation, unleashed or exalted by technico-social totalisation. 



one sees. And the more one sees, the better one knows where 
to look. If life has been able to advance, it is because, by cease- 
less groping, it has successively found the points of least resist- 
ance at which reality yielded to its thrust. Similarly, if research 
is to progress tomorrow, it will be largely by localising the 
central zones, the sensitive zones which are ' alive ', whose 
conquest will afford us an easy mastery of all the rest. 

From this point of view, if we are going towards a human 
era of science, it will be eminently an era of human science. 
Man, the knowing subject, will perceive at last that man, ' the 
object of knowledge ', is the key to the whole science of nature. 

Carrel referred to man as ' the unknown '. But man, we 
should add, is the solution of everything that we can know. 

Up to the present, whether from prejudice or fear, science 
has been reluctant to look man in the face but has constantly 
circled round the human object without daring to tackle it. 
Materially our bodies seem insignificant, accidental, transitory 
and fragile ; why bother about them ? Psychologically, our 
souls are incredibly subdc and complex : how can one fit them 
into a world of laws and formulas? 

Yet the more persistently we try to avoid man in our theories, 
the more tightly drawn become the circles wc describe around 
him, as though we were caught up in his vortex. As I said in 
my Preface, at the end of its analyses, physics is no longer sure 
whether what is left in its hands is pure energy or, on the con- 
trary, thought. At the end of its constructions, biology, if it 
takes its discoveries to their logical conclusion, finds itself forced 
to acknowledge the assemblage of thinking beings as die present 
terminal form of evolution. We find man at the bottom, man 
at the top, and, above all, man at the centre — man who lives 
and struggles desperately in us and around us. We shall have to 
come to grips with him sooner or later. 

Man is, if 1 have not gone astray in these pages, an object 
of study of unique value to science for two reasons, (i) He 
represents, individually and socially, the most synthesised state 
under which the stuff of the universe is available to us. (ii) 



Correctively, he is at present the most mobile point of the stuff 
in course of transformation. 

For these two reasons, to decipher man is essentially to try 
to find out how the world was made and how it ought to go 
on making itself. The science of man is the practical and theoreti- 
cal science of hominisation. It means profound study of the past 
and of origins. But still more, it means constructive experiment 
pursued on a continually renewed object. The programme is 
immense and its only end or aim is that of the future. 

What is involved, firstly, is the care and improvement of 
the human body, the health and strength of the organism. So 
long as its phase of immersion in the ' tangential ' lasts, thought 
can only be built up on this material basis. And now, in the 
tumult of ideas that accompany the awakening of the mind, 
are we not undergoing physical degeneration ? It has been said 
that we might well blush comparing our own mankind, so full 
of misshapen subjects, with those animal societies in which, in a 
hundred thousand individuals, not one will be found lacking in 
a single antenna. In itself that geometrical perfection is not in 
the line of our evolution whose bent is towards suppleness and 
freedom. All the same, suitably subordinated to other values, 
it may well appear as an indication and a lesson. So far we 
have certainly allowed our race to develop at random, and we 
have given too little thought to the question of what medical 
and moral factors must replace the crude forces of natural selection 
should we suppress them. In the course of the coming centuries 
it is indispensable that a nobly human form of eugenics, on a 
standard worthy of our personalities, should be discovered and 

Eugenics applied to individuals leads to eugenics applied to 
society. It would be more convenient, and we would incline 
to think it safe, to leave the contours of that great body made 
of all our bodies to take shape on their own, influenced only by 
the automatic play of individual urges and whims. ' Better not 
interfere with the forces of the world ! ' Once more we are 
up against the mirage o( instinct, the so-called infallibility of 



nature. But is it not precisely the world itself which, culminat- 
ing in thought, expects us to think out again the instinctive 
impulses of nature so as to perfect them ? Reflective substance 
requires reflective treatment. If there is a future for mankind, 
it can only be imagined in terms of a harmonious conciliation 
of what is free with what is planned and totalised. Points 
involved are : the distribution of the resources of the globe ; 
the control of the trek towards unpopulated areas ; the optimum 
use of the powers set free by mechanisation ; the physiology of 
nations and races; geo-economy, geo-politics, geo-demography; 
the organisation of research developing into a reasoned organ- 
isation of the earth. Whether we like it or not, all the signs and 
all our needs converge in the same direction. We need and are 
irresistibly being led to create, by means of and beyond all 
physics, all biology and all psychology, a science of human energetics. 
It is in the course of that creation, already obscurely begun, 
that science, by being led to concentrate on man, will find itself 
increasingly face to face with religion. 


The Conjunction oj Science and Religion 

To outward appearance, the modern world was born of an 
anti-religious movement: man becoming self-sufficient and 
reason supplanting belief. Our generation and the two that 
preceded it have heard little but talk of the conflict between 
science and faith ; indeed it seemed at one moment a foregone 
conclusion that the former was destined to take the place of 
the latter. 

But, as the tension is prolonged, the conflict visibly seems to 
need to be resolved in terms of an entirely different form of 
equilibrium — not in elimination, nor duality, but in synthesis. 
After close on two centuries of passionate struggles, neither 
science nor faith has succeeded in discrediting its adversary. On 
the contrary, it becomes obvious that neither can develop 
normally without the other. And the reason is simple : the 



same life animates both. Neither in its impetus nor its achieve- 
ments can science go to its limits without becoming tinged with 
mysticism and charged with faith, 

Firstly in its impetus. We touched on this point when dealing 
with the problem of action. Man will only continue to work 
and to research so long as he is prompted by a passionate interest. 
Now this interest is entirely dependent on the conviction, strictly 
undemonstrable to science, that the universe has a direction 
and that it could— indeed, if we are faithful, it should— result 
in some sort of irreversible perfection. Hence comes belief in 


Secondly in its construction. Scientifically we can envisage an 
almost indefinite improvement in the human organism and 
human society. But as soon as we try to put our dreams into 
practice, we realise that the problem remains indeterminate or 
even insoluble unless, with some partially super-rational intuition, 
we admit the convergent properties of the world we belong to. 
Hence belief in unity. 

Furthermore, if we decide, under the pressure of facts, in 
favour of an optimism of unification, we run into the technical 
necessity of discovering — in addition to the impetus required to 
push us forward and in addition to the particular objective which 
should determine our route — the special binder or cement which 
will associate our lives together, vitally, without diminishing or 
distorting them. Hence, belief in a supremely attractive centre 
which has personality. 

In short, as soon as science outgrows the analytic investiga- 
tions which constitute its lower and preliminary stages, and 
passes on to synthesis — synthesis which naturally culminates in 
the realisation of some superior state of humanity — it is at once 
led to foresee and place its stakes on the future and on the all. 
And with that it out-distances itself and emerges in terms of 
option and adoration. 

Thus Renan and the nineteenth century were not wrong to 
speak of a Religion of Science. Their mistake was not to see 
that their cult of humanity implied the re-integration, in a re- 



newed form, of those very spiritual forces they claimed to be 
getting rid of. 

When, in the universe in movement to which we have just 
awakened, we look at the temporal and spatial series diverging 
and amplifying themselves around and behind us like the laminae 
of a cone, we are perhaps engaging in pure science. But when 
we turn towards the summit, towards the totality and the future, 
we cannot help engaging in religion. 

Religion and science are the two conjugated faces or phases 
of one and the same complete act of knowledge — the only one 
which can embrace the past and future of evolution so as to 
contemplate, measure and fulfil them. 

In the mutual reinforcement of these two still opposed 
powers, in the conjunction of reason and mysticism, the human 
spirit is destined, by the very nature of its development, to find 
the uttermost degree of its penetration with the maximum of 
its vital force. 


Always pushing forward in the three directions we have just 
indicated, and taking advantage of the immense duration it has 
still to live, mankind has enormous possibilities before it. 

Until the coming of man, life was quickly arrested and 
hemmed in by the specialisations into which it was forced to 
mould itself so as to act, and became fixed, then dispersed, at 
each forward bound. Since the threshold of reflection, wc have 
entered into an entirely new field of evolution — thanks to the 
astonishing properties of 'artifice' which separate the instrument 
from the organ and enable one and the same creature to intensify 
and vary the modalities of its action indefinitely without losing 
anything of its freedom ; and thanks to the prodigious power 
of thought to bring together and combine in a single conscious 
effort all the human particles. In fact, though the study of the 
past may give us some idea of the resources of organised matter 



in its dispersed state, we have as yet no idea of the possible magnitude 
of 'noospheric' effects. We are confronted with human 
vibrations resounding by the million-a whole layer of con- 
sciousness exerting simultaneous pressure upon the future and 
the collected and hoarded produce of a million years of thought. 
Have we ever tried to form an idea of what such magnitudes 

represent P 1 

In this direction, the most unexpected is perhaps what we 
should most expect. Under the increasing tension of the mind 
on the surface of the globe, we may begin by asking serious y 
whether life will not perhaps one day succeed in ingeniously 
forcing the bars of its earthly prison, either by finding the means 
to invade other inhabited planets or (a still more giddy per- 
spective) by getting into psychical touch with other focal points 
of consciousness across the abysses of space. The meeting and 
mutual fecundation of two noosphcres is a supposition which may 
seem at fust sight crazy, but which after all is merely extending 
to psychical phenomena a scope no-one would think of denying 
to material phenomena. Consciousness would thus finally con- 
struct itself by a synthesis of planetary units. Why not, in a 
universe whose astral unit is the galaxy ? 

Without in any way wishing to discourage such hypotheses 
—whose realisation, though enormously enlarging the dimen- 
sions, would leave unchanged both the convergent form and 
hence the final duration of noogenesis— I consider their prob- 
ability too remote for them to be worth dwelling on. 

The human organism is so extraordinarily complicated and 

1 Over and above the intellectual value of isolated human units, there are 
thus grounds for recognising a collective exaltation (by mutual support or 
reverberation) when those units are suitably arranged. It would be difficult 
to say whether there are any Aristotles, Platos or St. Augustines now on earth 
(how could it be proved : on the other hand why not?) But what is clear is 
that, each supporting the other (making a single arch or a single mirror), our 
modern souls sec and feel today a world such as (in size, inter-connections and 
potentialities) escaped all the great men of antiquity. To this progress in 
consciousness, could anyone dare to object that there has been no corresponding 
advance in the profound structure of being? 



sensitive, and so closely adapted to terrestrial conditions, that it 
is difficult to see how man could acclimatise himself to another 
planet, even if he were capable of navigating through inter- 
planetary space. The sidereal durations are so immense that it is 
difficult to see how in two different regions of the heavens, two 
thought systems could co-exist and coincide at comparable stages 
of their development. For these two reasons among others I 
adopt the supposition that our noosphere is destined to close 
in upon itself in isolation, and that it is in a psychical rather than 
a spatial direction that it will find an outlet, without need to 
leave or overflow the earth. Hence, quite naturally, the notion 
of change of state recurs. 

Noogenesis rises upwards in us and through us unceasingly. 
We have pointed to the principal characteristics of that move- 
ment : the closer association of the grains of thought ; the 
synthesis of individuals and of nations or races ; the need of an 
autonomous and supreme personal focus to bind elementary 
personalities together, without deforming them, in an atmosphere 
of active sympathy. And, once again : all this results from the 
combined action of two curvatures — the roundness of the earth 
and the cosmic convergence of mind — in conformity with the 
law of complexity and consciousness. 

Now when sufficient elements have sufficiently agglomerated, 
this essentially convergent movement will attain such intens- 
ity and such quality that mankind, taken as a whole, will be 
obliged — as happened to the individual forces of instinct — to 
reflect upon itself at a single point j 1 that is to say, in this case, 
to abandon its organo-planetary foothold so as to shift its centre 
on to the transcendent centre of its increasing concentration. 
This will be the end and the fulfilment of the spirit of the earth. 

The end of the world : the wholesale internal introversion 
upon itself of the noosphere, which has simultaneously reached 
the uttermost limit of its complexity and its ccntrality. 

The end of the world : the overthrow of equilibrium, 

1 Which amounts to saying that human history develops between two points 
of reflection, the one inferior and individual, the other superior and collective. 



detaching the mind, fulfilled at last, from its material matrix, 
so that it will henceforth rest with all its weight on God-Omega. 
The end of the world : critical point simultaneously of 
emergence and emersion, of maturation and escape. 

We can entertain two almost contradictory suppositions about 
the physical and psychical state our planet will be in as it 
approaches maturation. 1 According to the first hypothesis which 
expresses the hopes towards which we ought in any case to turn 
our efforts as to an ideal, evil on the earth at its final stage will 
be reduced to a minimum. Disease and hunger will be conquered 
by science and we will no longer need to fear them in any acute 
form. And, conquered by the sense of the earth and human 
sense, hatred and internecine struggles will have disappeared in 
the ever-warmer radiance of Omega. Some sort of unanimity 
will reign over the entire mass of the noosphere. The final con- 
vergence will take place in peace. 2 Such an outcome would of 
course conform most harmoniously with our theory. 

But there is another possibility. Obeying a law from which 
nothing in the past has ever been exempt, evil may go on grow- 
ing alongside good, and it too may attain its paroxysm at the 
end in some specifically new form. 

There are no summits without abysses. 
Enormous powers will be liberated in mankind by the inner 
play of its cohesion : though it may be that this energy will 
still be employed discordandy tomorrow, as today and in the 
past. Are we to foresee a mechanising synergy under brute 
force, or a synergy of sympathy ? Are we to foresee man seeking 
to fulfil himself collectively upon himself, or personally on a 
greater than himself? Refusal or acceptance of Omega? A 
conflict may supervene. In that case the noosphere, in the course 
of and by virtue of the process which draws it together, will, 

1 On the degree of ' inevitability ' of this maturation of a free mass, see 
Conclusion, p. 309. 

8 Though at the same time— since a critical point is being approached— in 
extreme tension. There is nothing in common between this perspective and the 
old millenary dreams of a terrestrial paradise at the end of time. 



when it has reached its point of unification, split into two zones 
each attracted to an opposite pole of adoration. Thought has 
never completely united upon itself here below. Universal love 
would only vivify and detach finally a fraction of the noosphere 
so as to consummate it — the part which decided to ' cross the 
threshold ', to get outside itself into the other. Ramification once 
again, for the last time. 

In this second hypothesis, which is more in conformity with 
traditional apocalyptic thinking, we may perhaps discern three 
curves around us rising up at one and the same time into the 
future : an inevitable education in die organic possibilities of 
the earth, an internal schism of consciousness ever increasingly 
divided on two opposite ideals of evolution, and positive attrac- 
tion of the centre of centres at the heart of those who turn 
towards it. And die earth would finish at the triple point at 
which, by a coincidence altogether in keeping with the ways 
of life, these three curves would meet and attain their maximum 
at the very same moment. 

The death of the materially exhausted planet ; the split of 
the noosphere, divided on the form to be given to its unity ; and 
simultaneously (endowing the event with all its significance and 
with all its value) the liberation of that percentage of the universe 
which, across time, space and evil, will have succeeded in labori- 
ously synthesising itself to the very end. 

Not an indefinite progress, which is an hypothesis contra- 
dicted by the convergent nature of noogenesis, but an ecstasy 
transcending the dimensions and the framework of the visible 

Ecstasy in concord ; or discord ; but in either case by excess 
of interior tension : the only biological outcome proper to or 
conceivable for the phenomenon of man. 

Among those who have attempted to read this book to the 
end, many will close it, dissatisfied and thoughtful, wondering 
whether I have been leading them through facts, through meta- 
physics or through dreams. 



But have those who still hesitate in this way really under- 
stood the rigorous and salutary conditions imposed on our 
reason by the coherence of the universe, now admitted by all ? 
A mark appearing on a film; an electroscope discharging abnor- 
mally ; that is enough to force physics to accept fantastic powers 
in the 'atom. Similarly, if we try to bring man, body and soul, 
within the framework of what is experimental, man obliges us 
to readjust completely to his measure the layers of time and space. 
To make room for thought in the world, I have needed to 
' interiorise ' matter : to imagine an energetics of the mind ; to 
conceive a noogenesis rising upstream against the flow of 
entropy ; to provide evolution with a direction, a line of advance 
and critical points ; and finally to make all things double back 

upon someone. 

In this arrangement of values I may have gone astray at many 
points. It is up to others to try to do better. My one hope is 
that I have made the reader feel both the reality, difficulty, and 
urgency of the problem and, at the same time, the scale and the 
form which the solution cannot escape. 

The only universe capable of containing the human person 
is an irreversibly ' personalising ' universe. 




Neither in the play of its elemental activities, which can only 
be set in motion by the hope of an ' imperishable ' ; nor in the 
play of its collective affinities, which require for their coalescence 
the action of a conquering love, can reflective life continue to 
function and to progress unless, above it, there is a pole which 
is supreme in attraction and consistence. By its very structure 
the noosphcre could not close itself either individually or socially 
in any way save under the influence of the centre we have 
called Omega. 

That is the postulate to which we have been led logically by 
the integral application to man of the experimental laws of 
evolution. The possible, or even the probable, repercussion of 
this conclusion, however theoretical in the first approximation, 
upon experience will now be obvious. 

If Omega were only a remote and ideal focus destined to 
emerge at the end of time from the convergence of terrestrial 
consciousnesses, nothing could make it known to us but this 
convergence. At the present time no other energy of a personal 
nature could be detected on earth save that represented by the 
sum of human persons. 

If, on the other hand, Omega is, as we have admitted, already 
in existence and operative at the very core of the thinking mass, 
then it would seem inevitable that its existence should be mani- 
fested to us here and now through some traces. To animate 
evolution in its lower stages, the conscious pole of the world 
could of course only act in an impersonal form and under the 



veil of biology. Upon the thinking entity that we have become 
by hominisation, it is now possible for it to radiate from the one 
centre to all centres— personally. Would it seem likely that it 
should not do so ? 

Either the whole construction of the world presented here 
is vain ideology or, somewhere around us, in one form or 
another, some excess of personal, extra-human energy should be 
perceptible to us if we look carefully, and should reveal to us 
the great Presence. It is at this point that we see the importance 
for science of the Christian phenomenon. 

At the conclusion of a study of the human phenomenon I 
have not chosen those words haphazardly, nor for the sake of 
mere verbal symmetry. They are meant to define without 
ambiguity the spirit in which I want to speak. 

As I am living at the heart of the Christian world, I might be 
suspected of wanting to introduce an apologia by artifice. But, 
here again, so far as it is possible for a man to separate in himself 
the various planes of knowledge, it is not the convinced believer 
but the naturalist who is asking for a hearing. 

The Christian fact stands before us. It has its place among 
the other realities of the world. 

I would like to show how it seems to me to bring to the 
perspectives of a universe dominated by energies of a personal 
nature the crucial confirmation we are in need of, firstly by the 
substance of its creed, next, by its existence-value, and finally by 
its extraordinary power of growth. 


To those who only know it outwardly, Christianity seems 
desperately intricate. In reality, taken in its main lines, it con- 
tains an extremely simple and astonishingly bold solution of the 

In the centre, so glaring as to be disconcerting, is the uncom- 



promising affirmation of a personal God : God as providence, 
directing the universe with loving, watchful care ; and God the 
revealer, communicating himself to man on the level of and 
through the ways of intelligence. It will be easy for me, after 
all I have said, to demonstrate the value and actuality of this 
tenacious personalism, not long since condemned as obsolete. 
The important thing to point out here is the way in which such 
an attitude in the hearts of the faithful leaves the door open to, 
and is easily allied to, everything that is great and healthy in 
the universal. 

In its Judaic phase, Christianity might well have considered 
itself the particular religion of one people. Later on, coming 
under the general conditions of human knowledge, it came to 
think that the world around it was much too small. However 
that may be, it was hardly constituted before it was ceaselessly 
trying to englobe in its constructions and conquests the totality 
of the system that it managed to picture to itself. 

Personalism and universalism : in what form have these two 
characters been able to unite in its theology ? 

For reasons of practical convenience and perhaps also of 
intellectual timidity, the City of God is too often described in 
pious works in conventional and purely moral terms. God 
and the world he governs are seen as a vast association, essen- 
tially legalistic in its nature, conceived in terms of a family or 
government. The fundamental root from which the sap of 
Christianity has risen from the beginning and is nourished, is 
quite otherwise. Led astray by a false evangelism, people often 
think they are honouring Christianity when they reduce it to a 
sort of gentle philanthropism. Those who fail to see in it the 
most realistic and at the same time the most cosmic of beliefs 
and hopes, completely fail to understand its ' mysteries '. Is the 
Kingdom of God a big family ? Yes, in a sense it is. But in 
another sense it is a prodigious biological operation — that of the 
Redeeming Incarnation. 

As early as in St. Paul and St. John we read that to create, to 
fulfil and to purify the world is, for God, to unify it by uniting it 



organically with himself. 1 How docs he unify it ? By partially 
immersing himself in things, by becoming ' element ', and then, 
from this point of vantage in the heart of matter, assuming the 
control and leadership of what we now call evolution. Christ, 
principle of universal vitality because sprung up as man among 
men, put himself in the position (maintained ever since) to 
subdue under himself, to purify, to direct and superanimate the 
general ascent of consciousnesses into which he inserted himself. 


By a perennial act of communion and sublimation, he aggre- 
gates to himself the total psychism of the earth. And when he 
has gathered everything together and transformed everything, 
he will close in upon himself and his conquests, thereby rejoining, 
in a final gesture, the divine focus he has never left. Then, as 
St. Paul tells us, God shall be all in all. This is indeed a superior 
form of ' pantheism '* without trace of the poison of adultera- 
tion or annihilation : the expectation of perfect unity, steeped 
in which each element will reach its consummation at the same 
time as the universe. 

The universe fulfilling itself in a synthesis of centres in perfect 
conformity with the laws of union. God, the Centre of centres. 
In that final vision the Christian dogma culminates. And so 
exacdy, so perfecdy does this coincide with the Omega Point 
that doubtless I should never have ventured to envisage the latter 
or formulate the hypothesis rationally if, in my consciousness 
as a believer, I had not found not only its speculative model 
but also its living reality. 


It is relatively easy to build up a theory of the world. But it is 
beyond the powers of an individual to provoke artificially the 

1 Following Greek thought — following all thought in fact — are not ' to be ' 
and ' to be one ' identical ? 
8 ' En pasi pant a Theos.' 



birth of a religion. Plato, Spinoza and Hegel were able to 
elaborate views which compete in amplitude with the per- 
spectives of the Incarnation. Yet none of these metaphysical 
systems advanced beyond the limits of an ideology. Each in 
turn has perhaps brought light to men's minds, but without 
ever succeeding in begetting life. What to the eyes of a ' natural- 
ist ' comprises the importance and the enigma of the Christian 
phenomenon is its existence-value and reality-value. 

Christianity is in the first place real by virtue of the spon- 
taneous amplitude of the movement it has managed to create 
in mankind. It addresses itself to every man and to every class 
of man, and from the start it took its place as one of the most 
vigorous and fruitful currents the noosphere has ever known. 
Whether we adhere to it or break off from it, we are surely 
obliged to admit that its stamp and its enduring influence are 
apparent in every corner of the earth today. 

It is doubtless a quantitative value of life if measured by its 
radius of action; but it is still more a qualitative value which 
expresses itself— like all biological progress — by the appearance 
of a specifically new state of consciousness. 

I am thinking here of Christian love. 

Christian love is incomprehensible to those who have not 
experienced it. That the infinite and the intangible can be 
lovable, or that the human heart can beat with genuine charity 
for a fellow-being, seems impossible to many people I know 
— in fact almost monstrous. But whether it be founded on an 
illusion or not, how can we doubt that such a sentiment exists, 
and even in great intensity ? We have only to note crudely the 
results it produces unceasingly all round us. Is it not a positive 
fact that thousands of mystics, ■ for twenty centuries, have 
drawn from its flame a passionate fervour that outstrips by far in 
brightness and purity the urge and devotion of any human 
love? is it not also a fact that, having once experienced it, further 
thousands of men and women are daily renouncing every other 
ambition and every other joy save that of abandoning themselves 
to it and labouring within it more and more completely ? 



Lastly, is it not a fact, as I can warrant, that if the love of God 
were extinguished in the souls of the faithful, the enormous 
edifice of rites, of hierarchy and of doctrines that comprise 
the Church would instantly revert to the dust from which it 
rose ? 

It is a phenomenon of capital importance for the science of 
man that, over an appreciable region of the earth, a zone of 
thought has appeared and grown in which a genuine universal 
love has not only been conceived and preached, but has also 
been shown to be psychologically possible and operative in 
practice. It is all the more capital inasmuch as, far from decreas- 
ing, the movement seems to wish to gain still greater speed and 


For almost all the ancient religions, the renewal of cosmic 
outlook characterising ' the modern mind ' has occasioned a 
crisis of such severity that, if they have not yet been killed 
by it, it is plain they will never recover. Narrowly bound to 
untenable myths, or steeped in a pessimistic and passive mysticism, 
they can adjust themselves neither to the precise immensities, nor 
to die constructive requirements, of space-time. They are out of 
step both with our science and with our activity. 

But under the shock which is rapidly causing its rivals to 
disappear, Christianity, which might at first have been thought 
to be shaken too, is showing, on the contrary, every sign of 
forging ahead. For, by the very fact of the new dimensions 
assumed by the universe as we see it today, it reveals itself both 
as inherently more vigorous in itself and as more necessary to 
the world than it has ever been before. 

More vigorous. To live and develop the Christian outlook needs 
an atmosphere of greatness and of coherence. The bigger the 
world becomes and the more organic become its internal con- 
nections, the more will die perspectives of the Incarnation 



triumph. That is what believers are beginning, much to their 
surprise, to find out. Though frightened for a moment by evolu- 
tion, the Christian now perceives that what it offers him is 
nothing but a magnificent means of feeling more at one with 
God and of giving himself more to him. In a pluralistic and static 
Nature, the universal domination of Christ could, strictly speak- 
ing, still be regarded as an extrinsic and super-imposed power. 
In a spiritually converging world this ' Christie ' energy acquires 
an urgency and intensity of another order altogether. If the world 
is convergent and if Christ occupies its centre, then the Christo- 
genesis of St. Paul and St. John is nothing else and nothing less 
than the extension, both awaited and unhoped for, of that noo- 
genesis in which cosmogenesis — as regards our experience — 
culminates. Christ invests himself organically with the very 
majesty of his creation. And it is in no way metaphorical to say 
that man tmds himself capable of experiencing and discovering 
his God in the whole length, breadth and depth of the world in 
movement. To be able to say literally to God that one loves him, 
not only with all one's body, all one's heart and all one's soul, 
but with every fibre of the unifying universe — that is a prayer 
that can only be made in space-time. 

More necessary. To say of Christianity that, despite appear- 
ances to the contrary, it is acclimatising itself and expanding 
in a world enormously enlarged by science, is to point to no 
more than one half of the picture. Evolution has come to infuse 
new blood, so to speak, into the perspectives and aspirations 
of Christianity. In return, is not the Christian faith destined, 
is it not preparing, to save and even to take the place of evolu- 
tion ? 

I have tried to show that we can hope for no progress on 
earth without the primacy and triumph of the personal at the 
summit of mind. And at the present moment Christianity 
is the unique current of thought, on the entire surface of the 
noosphere, which is sufficiently audacious and sufficiently pro- 
gressive to lay hold of the world, at the level of effectual practice, 
in an embrace, at once already complete, yet capable of indefinite 



perfection, where faith and hope reach their fulfilment in love. 
Alone, unconditionally alone, in the world today, Christianity 
shows itself able to reconcile, in a single living act, the All and 
the Person. Alone, it can bend our hearts not only to the service 
of that tremendous movement of the world which bears us along, 
but beyond, to embrace that movement in love. 

In other words can we not say that Christianity fulfils all the 
conditions we are entitled to expect from a religion of the 
future ; and that hence, through it, the principal axis of evolution 
truly passes, as it maintains ? 

Now let us sum up the situation : 
i. Considered objectively asa phenomenon, the Christian move- 
ment, through its rootedness in the past and ceaseless develop- 
ments, exhibits the characteristics of a phylum. 
ii. Reset in an evolution interpreted as an ascent of consciousness, 
this phylum, in its trend towards a synthesis based on love, pro- 
gresses precisely in the direction presumed for the leading-shoot 
of biogenesis. 

iii. In the impetus which guides and sustains its advance, this 
rising shoot implies essentially the consciousness of being in actual 
relationship with a spiritual and transcendent pole of universal 

To confirm the presence at the summit of the world of what 
we have called the Omega Point, 1 do we not find here the very 
cross-check we were waiting for ? Here surely is the ray of 
sunshine striking through the clouds, the reflection onto what is 
ascending of that which is already on high, die rupture of our 
solitude. The palpable influence on our world of an other and 
supreme Someone ... Is not die Christian phenomenon, which 

1 To be more exact, ' to confirm the presence at the summit of the world 
of something in line with, but still more elevated than, the Omega point '. 
This is in deference to the theological concept of the ' supernatural ' according 
to which the binding contact between God and the world, hk el nunc inchoate, 
attains to a super-intimacy (hence also a super-gratuitousness) of which man 
can have no inkling and to which he can lay no claim by virtue of his ' nature ' 



rises upwards at the heart of the social phenomenon, precisely 

In the presence of such perfection in coincidence, even if I 
were not a Christian but only a man of science, I think I would 
ask myself this question. 

Peking, June 1938-June 1940 




Since this book was composed, I have experienced no change in 
the intuition it seeks to express. Taken as a whole, I still see 
man today exactly as I saw him when I first wrote these pages. 
Yet the basic vision has not remained — it could not remain — 
stationary. By the irresistible deepening of reflection, by the 
decantation and automatic patterning of associated ideas, by the 
discovery of new facts and by the continual need to be better 
understood, certain new formulations and articulations have 
gradually occurred to me in the last ten years. They tend to 
emphasise, and at the same time to simplify, the main lines of 
my earlier draft. 

It is this unchanged, though recogitated, essence of the Pheno- 
menon of Man which I think it will be useful to set out here as 
a summing-up or conclusion under three inter-related headings : 




The astronomers have lately been making us familiar with the 
idea of a universe which for the last few thousand million years 
has been expanding in galaxies from a sort of primordial atom. 
This perspective of a world in a state of explosion is still debated, 
but no physicist would think of rejecting it as being tainted with 



philosophy or finalism. The reader should keep this example 
before him when he comes to weigh up the scope, the limita- 
tions and the perfect scientific legitimacy of the views I have 
here put forward. Reduced to its ultimate essence, the substance 
of these long pages can be summed up in this simple affirma- 
tion : that if the universe, regarded sidereally, is in process of 
spatial expansion (from the infinitesimal to the immense), in the 
same way and still more clearly it presents itself to us, physico- 
chemically, as in process of organic involution upon itself (from 
the extremely simple to the extremely complex) — and, moreover, 
this particular involution ' of complexity ' is experimentally 
bound up with a correlative increase in interiorisation, that is to 
say in the psyche or consciousness. 

In the narrow domain of our planet (still the only one within 
the scope of biology) the structural relationship noted here 
between complexity and consciousness is experimentally incon- 
testable and has always been known. What gives the standpoint 
taken in this book its originality is the affirmation, at the outset, 
that the particular property possessed by terrestrial substances — of 
becoming more vitalised as they become increasingly complex — 
is only the local manifestation and expression of a trend as 
universal as (and no doubt even more significant than) those 
already identified by science : those trends which cause the 
cosmic layers not only to expand explosively as a wave but 
also to condense into corpuscles under the action of electro- 
magnetic and gravitational forces, or perhaps to become de- 
materialised in radiation : trends which are probably stricdy 
inter-connected, as we shall one day realise. 

If that be so, it will be seen that consciousness (defined 
experimentally as the specific effect of organised complexity) 
transcends by far the ridiculously narrow limits within which 
our eyes can directly perceive it. 

On the one hand we are logically forced to assume the 
existence in rudimentary form (in a microscopic, i.e. an infinitely 
diffuse, state) of some sort of psyche in every corpuscle, even 
in those (the mega-molecules and below) whose complexity is 



of such a low or modest order as to render it (the psyche) imper- 
ceptible—just as the physicist assumes and can calculate those 
changes of mass (utterly imperceptible to direct observation) 
occasioned by slow movement. 

On the other hand, there precisely in the world where various 
physical conditions (temperature, gravity, etc.) prevent com- 
plexity reaching a degree involving a perceptible radiation of 
consciousness, we are led to assume that the involution, tem- 
porarily halted, will resume its advance as soon as conditions 
are favourable. 

Regarded along its axis of complexity, the universe is, both 
on the whole and at each of its points, in a continual tension of 
organic doubling-back upon itself, and thus of interiorisation. 
Which amounts to saying that, for science, life is always under 
pressure everywhere ; and that where it has succeeded in breaking 
through in an appreciable degree, nothing will be able to stop 
it carrying to the uttermost limit the process from which it has 

It is in my opinion necessary to take one's stand in this actively 
convergent cosmic setting if one wants to depict the phenomenon 
of man in its proper relief and explain it fully and coherently. 




So as to overcome the improbability of arrangements leading 
to units of ever increasing complexity, the involuting universe, 
considered in its pre-reflective zones, 1 proceeds step by step by 
dint of billion-fold trial and error. It is this process of groping, 
combined with the two-fold mechanism of reproduction and 
heredity (allowing the hoarding and the additive improvement 

1 Once the threshold of reflection is crossed, the play of ' planned ' or 
' invented ' combinations come into the picture, and to some extent supplants 
that of fortuitous combinations that 'just happen '. See below. 



of favourable combinations obtained, without the diminution, 
indeed with the increase, of the number of individuals engaged), 
which gives rise to the extraordinary assemblage of living stems 
forming what I have called the tree of life — though I could 
equally well have chosen another image, that of the spectrum, 
in which each wavelength would correspond to a particular 
shade of consciousness or instinct. 

From one point of view, the various stems of this psychical 
fan may seem (indeed they are often so regarded by science) to 
be vitally equivalent — -just so many instincts, so many equally 
valid solutions to a given problem, comparison between which 
is futile. A second original point in my position in The Pheno- 
menon of Man — apart from the interpretation of life as a universal 
function of the cosmos — lies, on the contrary, in giving the 
appearance on the human line of the power of reflection the 
value of a ' threshold ' or a change of state. This affirmation is 
far from being an unwarranted assumption or based initially on 
any metaphysics of thought. It is a choice depending experi- 
mentally on the curiously underestimated fact that, from the 
threshold of reflection onwards, we are at what is nothing less 
than a new form of biological existence, 1 characterised, amongst 
other peculiarities, by the following properties : 

a. The decisive emergence in individual life of factors of internal 
arrangement (invention) above the factors of external arrange- 
ment (utilisation of the play of chance). 

b. The equally decisive appearance between elements of true 
forces of attraction and repulsion (sympathy and antipathy), 
replacing the pseudo-attractions and pseudo-repulsions of pre-life 
or even of the lower forms of life, which we seem to be able to 
refer back to simple reactions to the curves of space-time in the 
one case, and of the biosphere in the other. 

1 In exactly the same way as physics changes (with the introduction and 
dominance of certain new terms) when it passes from the scale of the medium- 
sized to that of the immense or, on the other hand, to that of the infinitesimal. 
It is too often forgotten that there should be, and is, a special biology of the 
' infinitely complex '. 



c. Lastly, the awakening in the consciousness of each particular 
element (consequent upon its new and revolutionary aptitude 
for foreseeing the future) of a demand for ' unlimited survival '. 
That is to say, the passage, for life, from a state of relative irre- 
versibility (die physical impossibility of the cosmic involution 
to stop, once it has begun) to a state of absolute irreversibility 
(the radical dynamic incompatibility of a certain prospect of 
total death with the continuation of an evolution that has become 

These various properties confer on the zoological group 
possessing them a superiority that is not only quantitative and 
numerical, but functional and vital— an indisputable superiority, 
I maintain, provided that we make up our minds to apply relent- 
lessly and to the bitter end the experimental law of Complexity- 
Consciousness to the global evolution of the entire group. 




As we have seen, from a purely descriptive point of view, man 
was originally only one of innumerable branches forming the 
anatomic and psychic ramifications of life. But because this 
parucular stem, or radius, alone among others, has succeeded, 
thanks to a privileged structure or position, in emerging from 
insunct into thought, it proves itself capable of spreading out 
m its turn, within this still completely free zone of the world 
so as to form a spectrum of another order-the immense variety" 
of anthropological types known to us. Let us take a glance at 
this second fanning-out. In virtue of the particular form of 
cosmogenesis adopted here, the problem our existence sets 
before our science is plainly the following : To what extent and 
eventually under what form does the human layer still obey 
(or is exempt from) the forces of cosmic involution which gave 
it birth ? & 



The answer to this question is vital for our conduct, and 
depends entirely on the idea we form (or rather ought to form) 
of the nature of the social phenomenon as we now see it in 
full impetus around us. 

As a matter of intellectual routine and because of the positive 
difficulty of mastering a process in which we are ourselves 
swept along, the constantly increasing auto-organisation of the 
human myriad upon itself is still regarded more often than not as a 
juridical or accidental process only superficially, ' extrinsically ', 
comparable with those of biology. Naturally, it is admitted, 
mankind has always been increasing, which forces it to make 
more and more complex arrangements for its members. But 
these modus vivendi must not be confused with genuine onto- 
logical progress. From an evolutionary point of view, man has 
stopped moving, if he ever did move. 

And this is where, as a man of science, I feel obliged to make 
my protest and object. 

A certain sort of common sense 1 tells us that with man 
biological evolution has reached its ceiling : in reflecting upon 
itself, life has become stationary. But should we not rather say 
that it leaps forward ? Look at the way in which, as mankind 
technically patterns its multitudes, pari passu the psychic tension 
within it increases, with the consciousness of time and space 
and the taste for, and power of, discovery. This great event 
we accept without surprise. Yet how can one fail to recognise 
this revealing association of technical organisation and inward 
spiritual concentration as the work of the same great force 
(though in proportions and with a depth hitherto never attained), 
the very force which brought us into being ? How can we fail 
to see that after rolling us on individually — all of us, you and 
me — upon our own selves, it is still the same cyclone (only now 
on the social scale) which is still blowing over our heads, driving 
us together into a contact which tends to perfect each one of us 
by linking him organically to each and all of his neighbours ? 

1 The same ' common sense ' which has again and again been corrected 
beyond all question by physics. 



' Through human socialisation, whose specific effect is to 
involute upon itself the whole bundle of reflexive scales and 
fibres of the earth, it is the very axis of the cosmic vortex of 
interiorisation which is pursuing its course ' : replacing and 
emending the two preliminary postulates stated above (the one 
concerning the primacy of life in the universe, the other the 
p/imacy of reflection in life) this is the third option — the most 
d,!cisive of all — which completes the definition and clarification 
o I my scientific position as regards the phenomenon of man. 

This is not the place to show in detail how easily and co- 
herently this organic interpretation of the social phenomenon 
explains, or even in some directions allows us to predict, the 
course of history. Let it merely be stated that, if above the 
elementary hominisation that culminates in each individual, there 
is really developing above us another hominisation, a collective 
one of the whole species, then it is quite natural to observe, 
parallel with the socialisation of humanity, the same three 
psycho-biological properties rising upwards on the earth that 
the individual step to reflection originally produced. 

a. Firstly the power of invention, so rapidly intensified at the 
present time by the, rationalised collaboration of all the forces of 
research that it is already possible to speak of a human rebound of 

b. Next, capacity for attraction (or repulsion), still operating 
in a chaotic way throughout the world but rising so rapidly 
around us that (whatever be said to the contrary) economics will 
soon count for very little in comparison with the ideological 
and the emotional factors in the arrangement of the world. 

c. Lasdy and above all, the demand for irreversibility. This 
emerges from the still somewhat hesitating zone of individual 
aspirations, so as to find categorical expression in consciousness 
and through the voice of the species. Categorical in the sense 
that, if an isolated man can succeed in imagining that it is pos- 
sible physically, or even morally, for him to contemplate a 
complete suppression of himself— confronted with a total anni- 
hilation (or even simply with an insufficient preservation) 



destined for the fruit of his evolutionary labour — mankind, in 
its turn, is beginning to realise once and for all that its only 
course would be to go on strike. For the effort to push the earth 
forward is much too heavy, and the task threatens to go on 
much too long, for us to continue to accept it, unless we are to 
work in what is incorruptible. 

These and other assembled pointers seem to me to constitute 
a serious scientific proof that (in conformity with the universal 
law of centro-complexity) the zoological group of mankind — 
far from drifting biologically, under the influence of exaggerated 
individualism, towards a state of growing granulation ; far from 
turning (through space-travel) to an escape from death by 
sidereal expansion ; or yet again far from simply declining 
towards a catastrophe or senility — the human group is in fact 
turning, by planetary arrangement and convergence of all 
elemental terrestrial reflections, towards a second critical pole 
of reflection of a collective and higher order ; towards a point 
beyond which (precisely because it is critical) we can see nothing 
direcdy, but a point through which we can nevertheless prog- 
nosticate the contact between thought, born of involution upon 
itself of the stuff of the universe, and that transcendent focus we 
call Omega, the principle which at one and the same time makes 
this involution irreversible and moves and gathers it in. 

It only remains for me, in bringing this work to a close, to define 
my opinion on three matters which usually puzzle my readers : 
(a) what place remains for freedom (and hence for the possi- 
bility of a setback in the world) ? (b) what value must be given 
to spirit (as opposed to matter) ? and (c) what is the distinction 
between God and the World in the theory of cosmic involution ? 
a. As regards the chances of success of cosmogenesis, my con- 
tention is that it in no way follows from the position taken up 
here that the final success of hominisation is necessary, inevitable 
and certain. Without doubt, the ' noogenic ' forces of com- 
pression, organisation and interiorisation, under which the bio- 
logical synthesis of reflection operates, do not at any moment 



relax their pressure on the stuff of mankind. Hence the possi- 
bility of foreseeing with certainty ([fall goes well) certain precise 
directions of the future. 1 But, in virtue of its very nature, as 
we must not forget, the arrangement of great complexes (that 
is to say, of states of greater and greater improbability, even 
though closely linked together) does not operate in the universe 
(least of all in man) except by two related methods : (i) the 
groping utilisation of favourable cases (whose appearance is 
provoked by the play of large numbers) and (ii) in a second 
phase, reflective invention. And what docs that amount to if 
not that, however persistent and imperious the cosmic energy 
of involution may be in its activity, it finds itself intrinsically 
influenced in its effects by two uncertainties related to the double 
play — chance at the bottom and freedom at the top ? Let me add, 
however, that in the case of very large numbers (such, for instance, 
as the human population) the process tends to ' unfallibilise ' 
itself, inasmuch as the likelihood of success grows on the lower 
side (chance) while that of rejection and error diminishes on the 
other side (freedom) with the multiplication of the elements 
engaged. 2 

b. As regards the value of the spirit, I would like to say that 
from the phenomenal point of view, to which I systematically 
confine myself, matter and spirit do not present themselves as 
' things ' or ' natures ' but as simple related variables, of which 
it behoves us to determine not the secret essence but the curve 
in function of space and time. And I recall that at this level of 
reflection ' consciousness ' presents itself and demands to be 
treated, not as a sort of particular and subsistent entity, but as 
an ' effect ', as the ' specific effect ' of complexity. 

1 This for instance; that nothing could stop man in his advance to social 
unification, towards the development of machinery and automation (liberators 
of the spirit), towards ' trying all ' and ' thinking aJJ " right to the very end. 

2 For a Christian believer it is interesting to note that the fuial success of 
hominisation (and thus cosmic involution) is positively guaranteed by the 
' redeeming virtue ' of the God incarnate in his creation. But this takes us 
beyond the plan of phenomenology. 



Now, within these limits, modest as they are, something very 
important seems to me to be furnished by experience in favour of 
the speculations of metaphysics. 

On one side, when once we have admitted the above- 
mentioned transposition of the concept of consciousness, nothing 
any longer stops us from prolonging downwards towards the 
lower complexities under an invisible form the spectrum of the 
' within '. In other words, the ' psychic ' shows itself subtending 
(at various degrees of concentration) the totality of the pheno- 

On the other side, followed upward towards the very large 
complexes, the same ' psychic ' element from its first appearance 
in beings, manifests, in relation to its matrix of ' complexity ', 
a growing tendency to mastery and autonomy. At the origins 
of life, it would seem to have been the focus of arrangement 
(F 1) which, in each individual element, engenders and controls 
its related focus of consciousness (F 2). But, higher up, the 
equilibrium is reversed. Quite clearly, first from the ' individual 
threshold of reflection ' — if not before — it is F 2 which begins 
to take charge (by ' invention ') of the progress of F 1. Then, 
higher still, that is to say at the approaches (conjectured) of 
collective reflection, we find F 2 apparently breaking away 
from its temporo-spatial frame to join up with the supreme 
and universal focus Omega. After emergence comes emersion. 
In the perspectives of cosmic involution, not only does con- 
sciousness become co-extensive with the universe, but the uni- 
verse rests in equilibrium and consistency, in the form of thought, 
on a supreme pole of interiorisation. 

What finer experimental basis could we have on which to 
found metaphysically the primacy of the spirit ? 
c. Lastly, to put an end once and for all to the fears of 
' pantheism ', constantly raised by certain upholders of traditional 
spirituality as regards evolution, how can we fail to see that, in the 
case of a converging universe such as I have delineated, far from 
being bom from the fusion and confusion of the elemental centres 
it assembles, the universal centre of unification (precisely to 



fulfil its motive, collective and stabilising function) in use be 
conceived as pre-existing and transcendent. A very real ' pan- 
theism ' if you like (in the etymological meaning of the word) 
but an absolutely legitimate pantheism — for if, in the last resort, 
the reflective centres of the world are effectively ' one with 
God ', this state is obtained not by identification (God becoming 
all) but by the differentiating and communicating action of love 
(God all in everyone). And that is essentially orthodox and 






Throughout the long discussions we have been through, one 
point may perhaps have intrigued or even shocked the reader. 
Nowhere, if I am not mistaken, have pain or wrong been spoken 
of. Does that mean that, from the point of view I have adopted, 
evil and its problem have faded away and no longer count in the 
structure of the world ? If that were so, the picture of the uni- 
verse here presented might seem over-simplified or even faked. 

My answer (or, if you like, my excuse) to this frequent 
reproach of naive or exaggerated optimism is that, as my aim 
in this book has been limited to bringing out the positive essence 
of the biological process of hominisation, I have not (and this 
in the interests of clarity and simplicity) considered it necessary 
to provide the negative of the photograph. What good would it 
have done to have drawn attention to the shadows on the 
landscape, or to stress the depths of the abysses between the 
peaks ? Surely they were obvious enough. I have assumed that 
what I have omitted could nevertheless be seen. And it would 
be a complete misunderstanding to interpret the view here 
suggested as a sort of human idyll rather than as the cosmic 
drama that I have attempted to present. 

True, evil has not hitherto been mentioned, at least explicitly. 
But on the other hand surely it inevitably seeps out through 
every nook and cranny, through every joint and sinew of the 
system in which I have taken my stand. 

First : evil of disorder and failure. Right up to its reflective 



zones we have seen the world proceeding by means of groping 
and chance. Under this heading alone — even up to the human 
level on which chance is most controlled — how many failures 
have there been for one success, how many days of misery for 
one hour's joy, how many sins for a solitary saint ? To begin 
with we find physical lack-of-arrangement or derangement on 
the material level ; then suffering, which cuts into the sentient 
flesh ; then, on a still higher level, wickedness and the torture 
of spirit as it analyses itself and makes choices. Statistically, at 
every degree of evolution, we find evil always and everywhere, 
forming and reforming implacably in us and around us. Neces- 
sarium est ut scandala eveniant. This is relentlessly imposed by the 
play of large numbers at the heart of a multitude undergoing 

Second : evil of decomposition. This is no more than a form 
of the foregoing, for sickness and corruption invariably result 
from some unhappy chance. It is an aggravated and doubly 
fatal form, it must be added, inasmuch as, with living creatures, 
death is the regular, indispensable condition of the replacement 
of one individual by another along a phyletic stem. Death — the 
essential lever in the mechanism and upsurge of life. 

Third : evil oj solitude and anxiety. This is the great anxiety 
(peculiar to man) of a consciousness wakening up to reflection 
in a dark universe in which light takes centuries and centuries 
to reach it — a universe we have not yet succeeded in under- 
standing either in itself, or in its demands on us. 

Lastly, the least tragic perhaps, because it exalts us, though 
none the less real : the evil of growth, by which is expressed in 
us, in the pangs of childbirth, the mysterious law which, from 
the humblest chemism to the highest syntheses of the spirit, 
makes all progress in the direction of increased unity express 
itself in terms of work and effort. 

Indeed, if we regard the march of the world from this stand- 
point (i.e. not that of its progress but that of its risks and the 
efforts it requires) we soon see, under the veil of security and 
harmony which — viewed from on high — envelop the rise of 



man, a particular type of cosmos in which evil appears neces- 
sarily and as abundantly as you like in the course of evolution 
— not by accident (which would not much matter) but through 
the very structure of the system. A universe which is involuted 
and interioriscd, but at the same time and by the same token a 
universe which labours, which sins, and which suffers. Arrange- 
ment and centration : a doubly conjugated operation which, 
like the scaling of a mountain or the conquest of the air, can 
only be effected objectively if it is rigorously paid for — for 
reasons and at charges which, if only we knew them, would 
enable us to penetrate the secret of the world around us. 

Suffering and failure, tears and blood : so many by-products 
(often precious, moreover, and re-utilisable) begotten by the 
noosphere on its way. This, in final analysis is, what the spectacle 
of the world in movement reveals to our observation and 
reflection at the first stage. But is that really all ? Is there 
nothing else to see ? In other words, is it really sure that, for an 
eye trained and sensitised by light other than that of pure science, 
the quantity and the malice of evil hie et nunc, spread through 
the world, does not betray a certain excess, inexplicable to our 
reason, if to the normal effect of evolution is not added the extra- 
ordinary effect of some catastrophe or primordial deviation ? 

On this question, in all loyalty, I do not feel I am in a position 
to take a stand : in any case, would this be the place to do so ? 
One point, however, seems clear to me, and it is sufficient for 
the moment as an orientation : that hi this case (just as in that 
of the ' creation ' of the human soul — see note p. 169), complete 
liberty is not only conceded but offered by the phenomenon to 
theology, so that it may add precision and depth (should it wish 
to) to the findings and suggestions — always ambiguous beyond 
a certain point — furnished by experience. 

In one manner or the other it still remains true that, even 
in the view of the mere biologist, the human epic resembles 
nothing so much as a way of the Cross. 

Rome, October 28, 1948 



Aborigines, Australian, 197, 206 
Additivity, 108, no, 141, 225 
Africa, 128, 152, 158, 184, 185, 187 n., 

196, 197, 202, 206, 210 
Africanthropus, 196 
Agriculture, 205, 214 
Aino, 198 
Alaska, 205 

Albuminoids, 87, 148, 250 
America, 124, 125, 126 n., 152, 157, 

202, 206, 209, 212 
Amitotic division, 104 
Amphibians, 129, 130, 147 
Amphioxus, 131 
Animalcules, 40 
Annelida, 132 
Anthropogenesis, 42, 50, 138, 212, 

Anthropoids, 158, 160, 163, 168, 184- 

185, 187 n., 189, 193. 193 n., 196 
Anthropology, 163, 187, 198, 199- 

200, 241, 243 
Anthropomorphs, 187 n. 
Aplacentals, 126 (see also Marsupials) 
Aristogenesis, 160 
Aristotle, 133, 216 
Arizona, 152 

Arthropods, 124, 132, 145, 153 
Artiodactyla, 124-5 
Asia, 152, 210 
Astronomy, 67 n., 99, 134, 227, 274, 

Atmosphere, 68, 68 n., 71, 182 
Atom, 39, 40-9, 52, J9, 69, 94, 104, 

149, 268, 272, 300 
Aurignacian man, 200, 203 
Australia, 126, 185 
Australopithecus, 185, 187 n. 

Bacteria, 81, 82 n., 92, 102, 107, 132 
Barysphere, 68, 71, 182 
Belief, 283-4, 292-4 (see aho Faith) 
Benson, 275 

Biochemistry, 82 

Biogenesis, 139-40, 147-8, 166, 181, 
276, 298 

Biology, 48, 61, 79, 94, 95, 99, 103- 
110, 113, 121, 131-2, 138, 140 n., 
145-6, 148, 149 n., 151, 159, 163, 
164, 166, 172, 175, 178, 218, 223, 
225, 240, 242, 244, 247, 268 
277 n., 281-2, 283, 291-2, 293. 
301, 303 n., 305, 311, 313 

Biosphere, 78, 95-6, 101-2, 104, 112, 
118, 132, 148, 151, 153, 160, 182, 
218, 239, 251, 273, 275, 303 

Bode, 196 

Bovidae, 125 

Brain, 144-6. 158, 159-60. 170, 177. 
178, 181, 183, 188, 194, 194 n., 
198, 203, 249-50, 278 

Breuil, H., 214 

Brunschvig, 249 n. 

Bryozoa, 107 

Buffon, 217 

Burial, 198, 202 

Camelidae, 125 

Carbon, 95, 244 

Carboniferous era, 136 

Carnivores, 124, 125, 128, 145, 150, 

157. 139 
Carrel, A., 281 
Caves, 202-3 
Cell, 79-83, 86-109, 132. 147, 166, 

173. 225. 244, 268 
Centre, 60, 65-6, 89, 104, 165, 173, 

258-64, 267-72, 284, 287-8, 289, 

291, 294, 309, 313 
Cerebralisation, set Brain 
Cervidac, 125 
Cetacea, 125, 159 
Chalicotheridae, 124 
Chance, 149 n., 308, 312 
Chemistry, 71, 140, 219, 273 
Chimpanzee, 158, 185 



China, 184, 193, 197, 209-1 1 

Chordates, 131, 132, 144 

Christ, 294, 297 

Christianity, 211, 291-9, 308 n., 310 
(see also Religion) 

Christogenesis, 297 

Chromosomes, 87, 139, 277 

Church, 296 

Civilisation, 204-5, 269-70 

Coelenterata, 132 

Collective, Collectivity, 41-2, 246, 
254, 258, 261, 262-3, 265, 267 

Collingwood, R. G., 52 n., 216 n. 

Communism, 257 

Complexity, 43, 48, 48 n., 64, 66, 86- 
87. 177. 301-2. 308-9 

Comte, 57 n. 

Condylarthra, 144, 158 

Consciousness, 43, 47. 55-7. 59-<5i. 
72-4, 87-89, 143-52, 153. 155. 
160, 164-9, 173-4. 177, 178, 181, 
212, 219, 221-2, 224, 225, 229- 
32, 241, 243, 246, 251, 256-9, 
261-2, 264-5, 271-2, 276, 285-6, 
289, 291, 294, 295, 300-4, 308-9, 
312 (see also Intelligence, Mind, 
Psyche, Radial (internal) energy, 
Soul, Spirit, Within of things) 

Convergence, see under Centre, 
Omega point. Unity 

Cosmogenesis, 47, 221, 276, 297, 304, 

Cosmos, 43-5, 217 

Cournot, 122 n. 

Cretaceous period, 136 

Critical points, 78, 88, 231 

Cromagnon man, 199 

Crossopterygian, 130 

Crystallisation, 69-70 

Cuenot, 134 

Cytology, 80 

Cytoplasm, 79, 87 

Darwin, 82, 120, 138, 149 n., 218, 219 
Death, 237, 270, 272, 273, 275, 304, 

Descartes, 166 
Determinism, 53 

Devonian level, 131 
Diatom shells, 40 
Dinocerata, 144 
Dinosaurs, 128, 129, 144 
Dryopithecus, 158 
Dualism, 64 

Duration, 46, 47, 77, 219-20, 228 (see 
also Space-time) 

Echinodermata, 132 

Economics, 213-14, 306 

Ego, 172, 258, 259, 261, 262, 263 

Egotism, 230, 237-8, 244, 263 

Egypt, 210, 211 

Electro-magnetic waves, 240, 301 

Electron, 41, 45, 48, 102 

Embryogenesis, 78, 171, 189, 200 

Endomorphosis, 209 

Energetics, 283, 290 

Energy, 40, 42-3, 45, 50-2, 62-6, 68- 
70, 72, 98, 102, 141, 231, 232, 
232 n., 241, 250, 253, 258, 264- 
72, 274, 276-7, 280, 281, 288, 
291, 292, 297, 308 
radial (internal) energy, 64-6, 72, 
88, 89, 143, 147, 149, 168-9, 176, 
239, 244, 253, 265, 269, 272 (see 
also Consciousness, Intelligence, 
Mind, Psyche, Soul, Spirit, 
Within of things) 
tangential (external) energy, 64-6, 
88, 143. H7, 149. 169. 239. 272 

Entropy, 51, 66, 271, 272, 290 (see 
also Thermodynamics) 

Enzymes, 95 

Eocene period, 145, 158, 189 

Epicurus, 40 

Ethics, 62, 164 

Eugenics, 282-3 

Evil, 249, 288, 289, 311-13 

External energy, see Energy 

Fabre, 155 

Faith, 229, 234, 245, 283-4 (see aho 

Finalism, 53, 139, 301 
Freedom, 307-8 



Galileo, 217 

Genes, 209, 225, 250 

Genesis, 49, 99, 100, 218, 228 

Genetics, 106 

Genotypes, 140 

Geogenesis, 148, 181, 273 

Geology, 100-1, 122, 125, 136, 164, 

182, 183 
Germs, 97, 106, 109, 225 
God, 292-7, 307, 308 n., 310 
Goncourts, 275 
Gorilla, 158, 185 
Granulation, 49, 307 
Graves, see under Burial 
Greece, 211, 257 
Gregory, K. W., 189 
Groping, no, 118, 223-4, 242, 250, 

281, 308, 312 

Haldane, J. B. S., 57 n., 269 n. 

Hegel, 294 

Heidelberg man, 191 n., 196 

Herbivores, 124, 125, 128 

Heredity, 108, 178, 179 n., 224-6, 277, 

Hologenesis, 187 

Hominidae, 163, 191-2, 195-6, 241 

Hominisation, 164, 169 n., 174, 180, 
182, 184, 186, 187, 189, 194, 198, 
205, 207, 208, 215, 222, 226, 240, 
243, 258, 264, 272, 276, 282, 292, 
306, 307, 308 n., 311 

Homo faber, 195 

Homo sapiens, 199, 200, 206, 278 

Hormones, 250, 277 n. 

Huxley, Sir Julian, 221 

Hydrogen, 45 

Hydrosphere, 68, 71, 101, 182 

Hydrozoa, 99 

Hyper-personal (see Super personal) 

Ice age, 201 

Impersonal, the, 258, 260 
Incarnation, 293, 295, 296 
India, 158, 209, 211 
Individualism, 238, 246, 263 
Industry, 214-15, 230, 280 
Infusoria, 105, 132 

Insectivores, 124, 158 

Insects, 99, 132, 145, 153-5, 178 

Instinct, 155, 159, 167, 171, 175, 178, 

180, 181, 282, 287, 303, 304 
Intelligence, 167 n., 168, 171-4, 202, 
216, 293 (sec also Consciousness, 
Mind, Psyche, Radial (internal) 
energy, Soul, Spirit, Within of 
Interior of things, see Within of 

Internal energy, see Energy 
Invention, 223-5, 3°3. 306". 308 
Involution, 72, 73, 300-4, 307-9, 313 
Isolation, 237-8, 244 

Java, 1 91-6 
John, St., 293, 297 
Jurassic period, 128 

Karma, 210 

Knowledge, 46, 164-6, 167 n., 248- 

Lamarck, 82, 120, 149 n., 179 n. 
Laplace, 218 

Law of consciousness and complexity, 
45 "-. 287, 300-2, 304 

of energy, 50-1, 66 

of growth, 58 
Laws, numerical, 50-2 
Layer, 127-8, 130-2, 136, 144 
Life, Tree of, 97 n., 99, 103, 122, 128, 
134. 137. 140, 144, 145-6, 157, 

I67, 175, 177, 182, I85, 200, 222, 

238,275, 277, 303 
Linnaeus, 83, 133, 163 
Lithosphere, 68, 71, 102, 182 
Living mass, 103, 112 
Love, 233 n., 264-7, 269, 271, 289, 

291, 295-6, 298, 310 
Lower Quaternary period, 191, 196 

Magdalenian man, 203 

Magma, 99, 100 

Malaya, 158, 184, 197 

Mammals, 122-30, 136, 137, 144, 147, 



152. 153. 155-7. 159. i<5o, 200, 

Marsupials, 124 n., 126, 144 

Marx, 261 

Mass-formation, see under Planetisa- 

Mathematics, 61, 219, 249, 268 

Matthew, 275 

Maya, 211 

Mechanisation, 257 

Mediterranean, 212 

Megamolecule, 81-6, 92, 93, 96, 108, 
139, 301 

Megasynthesis, 107, 243-5, 251 

Mendel, 108 

Mesopotamia, 210, 211 

Metazoa, 60, 81, 107, 132, 183, 244 

Micro-molecules, 104, 108 

Micro-organisms, 80, 81-3 

Middle Jurassic period, 127 

Middle Palaeolithic period, 198 

Middle Quaternary period, 198 

Mind, 176, 215, 240, 243, 249, 253, 
256, 257, 259-60, 271, 278, 282, 
288 (see also Consciousness, In- 
telligence, Psyche, Radial (in- 
ternal) energy, Soul Spirit, 
Within of things) 

Miocene era, 144 

Mitotic division, 104 

Molecules, 41, 45, 49, 69, 70, 73, 78, 
81-2, 90. 94. 99. 139. 149. 244, 
264, 268 

Monkeys, 157-8 

Monogenism, 122 n., 186 n., 188 n. 

Monophyletism, 93, 186 n., 188 n., 

Mousterian man, 198, 200 

Multiplication, 104-5, 109, 113 

Mutation, 108, 118, 150, 171, 180, 
187, 189, 195, 223, 241 

Mysticism, 284-5, 295, 296 

National-Socialism, 257 
Neanderthaloids, 185, 196-202 
Neolithic era, 203-12, 240, 245, 252 
Neutron, 48 
Nicolas of Cusa, 264 

Nile, 210, 211 

Noogenesis, 181-2, 216, 221, 229, 230, 
255, 257, 260, 261, 270, 273, 286, 

287, 289, 290, 297 
Noosphere, 73 n., 180-4, 191, 206, 

209, 212, 222, 225-6, 239, 251, 
252, 259, 260, 264, 269, 273-6, 
278, 286-9, 295, 297 
Nucleus of cell, 80, 87, 91 

Oceania, 202 

Oligocene era, 189 

Omega point, 57 n., 257-64, 268-72, 

288, 291, 294, 298, 307, 309 
Omnivores, 124, 158 
Ontogenesis, 48, 100, 170, 171, 226 
Organic matter, 70, 79, 92 
Orthogenesis, 108-9, i"i 113. 125, 

138, 140 n., 145, 151, 160, 180-1 
Osborn, 160, 189 

Palaeolithic era, 206 

Palaeontology, 81, 119, 124, 125, 128, 

140 n., 144, 147, 159, 184, 185, 

195, 199 n., 2oi 
Palaeozoic era, 158 
Pantheism, 262, 267, 294, 309 
Pascal, 40, 44, 217, 233 
Pasteur, 97, 99 
Paul, St., 293-4, 297 
Peking man, see under Sinanthropus 
Permian period, 128, 129, 136 
Personalisation, personality, 172-3, 

257-64, 265-6, 284 
Phenotypes, 140 
Photon, 48 
Phylogenesis, 48, 100, 138, 194-5, 

198, 207-8, 224, 225, 226, 241, 

Physics, 42-3, 46-7, 54-5, 56, 57 n., 

65 n., 68, 79, 98, 103, 137, 140 n„ 

148, 149 n., 163, 169, 211, 217, 

219, 220, 247, 249 n., 268, 271, 

274, 281, 283, 290, 300-1, 302, 

303 n., 305 11., 130-1 
Pithecanthropus, 193-8, 199 n. 
Placentals, 125-7, r 44 



Planetisation, 243 n., 250 n., 252 

Plato, 264, 294 

Platyrrhini, 126, 157 

Pleistocene era, 193, 197 n. 

Pliocene era, 126 11. , 144, 156, 158, 
159, 187, 189 

Polanyi, M., 179 n. 

Polycladida, 157 

Polymerisation, 70-1, 239 

Polynesians, 209 

Polyphyletism, 93, 139 n., 187 

Porifera, 132 

Pouchet, 97 

Pre-anthropoids, 189 

Pre-biosphere, 74 

Precambrian era, 133, 137 

Pre-consciousness, 88 

Pre-history, 206 

Pre-hominids, 191, 194-5, 197. 198, 
199, 200, 255 

Pre-life, 57, 73, 80, 88, 96, 303 

Primates, 157-60, 168, 181, 185 

Proboscidia, 125, 157, 159 

Profusion, 109-10 

Protein, 73, 77, 82, 85 

Proton, 48 

Protoplasm, 77, 82, 87, 91, 95, 97, 
101, 102, 141, 147 

Protozoa, 60, 81, 99, 132, 218 

Pseudo-neanderthaJoids, 199, 200 

Psyche, psycliism, 151, 154, 164-8, 
173. 175. I7 8 . 208, 239, 241, 301- 
302 (see also Consciousness, In- 
telligence, Mind, Radial (inter- 
nal) energy, Soul, Spirit, Within 
of things) 

Psychogenesis, 148, 181 

Psychology, 150, 164, 176, 267, 283 

Psychozoic era, 183 

Pterosaurians, 128 

Quantum, 43, 45-6, 51, 66, 102, 225, 

Quaternary era, 126 n., 201, 203 

RaciaJism, 238 

Radial energy, sec Energy 

Radiation, 42, 70, 274, 301 

Reason, 283, 285 

Reflection, 165-90, 196, 203, 204, 215, 

227, 228, 230, 246, 249 n., 250- 

i, 269, 271, 276, 283, 291, 302- 

12 (see also Thought) 
Reflection, threshold of, 88, 164-80, 

186-7, 219, 260, 276, 285, 302-4, 

Relativity, 47 n., 83 
Religion, 219, 278, 283-5, 294-6 (see 

also Christianity) 
Renan, 284 

Reproduction, 104-5, JI 3. I 79< 302 
Reptiles, 128-30, 145, 147 
Research, 278-83, 306 
Rhodesian man, 199 
Rodents, 125, 126 n. 

Science, 265, 268, 276-85, 288, 296, 

Secondary era, 125, 145 

Sex, 106, 179, 193, 256, 264 

Silurian, 131 

Simians, 193 

Sinanthropus, 185, 191-8 

Socialisation, society, 106-7, 1 17-1 8, 
132, 145, 179, 203-5, 208, 214, 
223-4, 227, 241, 242, 268, 277, 
282, 284, 304-7 

Solo man, 198 

Soul, 63, 88, 150, t68, 176-7, 179, 
183, 202, 215, 220, 222, 233, 241, 
748, 257-60, 265, 268-70, 272, 
281, 313 (see also Consciousness, 
Intelligence, Mind, Psyche, 
Radial (internal) energy, Spirit, 
Within of things) 

Space, 216-9, 226-9, 240, 252, 259, 
260, 269-71, 273, 289, 290, 305, 
308 (see also Space-time) 

Space-time, 47, 216-22, 227, 232, 247, 
254, 258, 259, 267, 296, 303 (see 
also Duration) 

Spinoza, 294 

Spirit, 62-3, 176, 180, 211, 239, 244-5, 
253-4, 266, 269, 273, 285, 287, 
307-9 (sec also Consciousness, 
Intelligence, Mind, Psyche, 



Radial (internal) energy, Soul, 
Within of things) 
Spy cranium, 198 
Steinheim man, 199 
Stuff of the universe, see Universe, 

stuff of 
Super-centration, 259 
-consciousness, 251 
-human, 244, 260 
-individual, 247 
-man, 238 
-matter, 267 

-personal, 254, 259, 260, 263 n. 
-sou], 233 
Survival, 268-9 

Symbiosis, 94, 149 n., 209, 244 
Synthesis, 51, 70, 73, 268, 270, 272, 
281, 283, 287, 289, 294, 298, 

Tangential energy, see under Energy 
Tertiary era, 125-6, 136, 144, 157-9, 

168, 184 
Tetrapods, 127, 136, 183 
Theology, 169 n., 313 
Theriomorphs, 128 
Thermodynamics, 51, 65, 72 (see also 

Things, within of, see Within of 

without of, see Without of things 
Thought, 64, 160-84, 195, 198, 203, 

215, 220, 222, 2304, 339-43. 248- 

53, 260, 263, 266, 271-3, 275, 

278, 281-3, 285-90, 304, 309 

(see also Reflection) 
Threshold of reflection, see Reflection, 

threshold of 
Time, 77, 101, 140, 152, 216-19, 228- 

9, 252, 259-60, 269-71, 273, 

289-90, 305, 308 (see also Space- 

Totalitarianism, 256-7 

Totum, 43-5, 47 

Transformism, 120, 122, 138, 140, 
151, 218, 219 

Tree of life, see Life, tree of 

Triassic era, 128, 136 

Trinil man, 193-9 

Trois-Freres cave, 202 

Unanimity, 248, 251-3, 269, 288 
Unity, 41-3, 56, 74. 112. 139 n., 222- 

6, 241, 243-4, 251, 262-8, 272, 

284, 289, 293-4 
Universe, stuff of, 39-52, 55, 64, 67, 

87, 94. 104, 143. 218, 251, 272, 

281, 307 
Upper Palaeolithic man, 200, 202, 204 
Upper Quaternary era, 203 

Vegetables, 124, 132-3, 153 
Vertebrates, 83-4, 99, 129-32, 136, 

153-7. 179 
Villefranchian era, 193 n., 196 

Wave, 102-3, 224, 225, 240, 301 

Wegener, 218 

Wells, H. G., 270 n., 275 

Within of things, 53-66, 71-4, 87-9, 
103, 143, 146, 149 n., 158, 164, 
166, 175, 239, 243, 264-5, 309 
(see also Consciousness, Intelli- 

?;ence, Mind, Psyche, Radial 
internal) energy, Soul, Spirit) 
Without of things, 55-6, 58-64, 68-71, 
89. 103, 143. i4<5, 164. 175, 243 

Zoology, 84, 114, 137, 163, 184, 187- 
8, 194. 198. 223, 241 


"While other thinkers announced the futility of life and the death 
of God, Teilhard de Chardin was passionately wringing from 
the earth answers to man's perennial questions: 'Who are we? 
Why are we?' " —Washington Post Book World 

Visionary theologian and evolutionary theorist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin 
applied his whole life, his tremendous intellect, and his great spiritual 
faith to building a philosophy that would reconcile religion with the 
scientific theory of evolution. In this timeless book, which contains the 
quintessence of his thought, Teilhard argues that just as living organisms 
sprung from inorganic matter and evolved into ever more complex thinking 
beings, humans are evolving toward an "omega point" —defined by Teilhard 
as a convergence with the Divine. 

"Brilliant I cannot imagine anyone reading this book who 

will not be profoundly influenced by it, and who will not wish to 
read it several times over." — New York Times Book Review 

"A most extraordinary book, of far-reaching significance for the 
understanding of man's place in the universe." — Abraham Heschel 

"[Teilhard's] magnum opus . . . set down the philosophical 
framework for planetary, Net-based consciousness." — Wired 

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was born in France and ordained a 
Jesuit priest. Trained as a paleontologist, Teilhard codiscovered the celebrated 
"Peking Man" fossils. The Phenomenon of Man is his best-known work. 


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